You should never go into a book thinking you know what to expect. Not even if you’re familiar with the author’s other works. Not if those other works are part of the same universe. If you have read my reviews of TC Marti’s Elementals of Nordica books (Wind Wielder, Wind Master and Wind Keeper—if you haven’t read them, that’s what the links are for, so get to it), these are explosive action stories. Marti’s latest offering, Civil War: Chronicles of Rondure: Book I (which I’ll just refer to as Civil War for simplicity) isn’t. Consider this a lesson learned; as soon as I started reading Civil War, I was surprised.
If you have read my reviews for the aforementioned books (and with those links I provided, if you haven’t, you really don’t have an excuse), you’ll know how much I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them. But as much as I enjoy that trilogy, I enjoyed my time with Civil War more. This is Marti’s crowning achievement: as surprised as I was by the story, this was an incredibly pleasant surprise.
Civil War tells the story of Mina Harai, a “Smoke Wielder” who is awaiting trial for her “crimes”—exposing the misdeeds of the Bastille military, to which she was inscribed. From here, she finds herself escaping her sentence with the goal of revealing the war crimes undertaken by this power. To get this out of the way early, this is a story that stands on its own two feet. If you haven’t read the Elementals of Nordica series to date, that doesn’t matter in the slightest; Civil War doesn’t rely on this background knowledge.
But if you have read that opening trilogy, Civil War expands the world in some wonderful ways, while also rewarding you for your knowledge of the world. Throughout Civil War, Marti expands his Elementals Universe, world building in a way that fleshes out the world beautifully.
World building, however, doesn’t make a great book; writing an excellent story does. And with Civil War, the author has written a truly excellent story. At 231 pages in paperback (or an estimated 244 pages on Kindle), this may be the shortest Elementals book so far, but the book doesn’t suffer for it. Rather than telling a sprawling story with multiple points of view, it instead tells a quieter, far more intimate story.
The intimacy in Civil War shines brightly, thanks largely to the first person perspective it takes. The story puts you straight into the mind of Mina, a character who is endearing and enjoyable to read. This prose is written well, conveying her thoughts and emotions through a story that is dark and dystopian. This is a messy world that the writing conveys brilliantly. Through the characters’ eyes, we are treated to this world, the atrocities contained within it, and a great supporting cast of characters ranging from those you are sure to love, and others you are certain to love to hate.
To circle back to my reviews of the Elementals of Nordica books (surely you’ve clicked those links by now), I commented that their quieter moments didn’t work as well as the action. In Civil War, however, these quieter moments shine. They form the spine of this story and the majority of its flesh as well. There are action beats interspersed throughout this story, but it is not the action story. It is more of a thriller, with a more methodical pace that brings the reader along through this gritty world. This isn’t to say that Civil War abandons its science fantasy roots; quite the contrary. The book includes all the science fiction and fantasy elements that work so well in the universe, and moves these into some interesting new directions.
I haven’t said much about Civil War’s plot, and won’t be going into any more detail: between my intro setting the scene and the blurb included at the beginning of this review provide as much information as you need; to reveal much more would risk spoiling it. The narrative takes plenty of twists and turns as it continues, with some great twists that provide genuine surprises.
If you’re a fan of science fantasy tales, if you like stories about inhabitants of dystopian worlds fighting for a better future, Civil War is an excellent story. If you’re worried about jumping into a whole new multi-book universe, it stands alone well enough that you can read it in isolation. But if you want to invest in the world, Civil War expands it in truly interesting and enjoyable ways. I can’t wait to see where TC Marti takes this universe next.
Part of me can’t stop crying. The other part of me doesn’t want to stop crying. The third part of me wants to end my life. Just like I ended two lives today and three if no one came to Rokko’s aid. But that would be selfish.
I fulfilled his wishes, gave him one last kiss, and told him to think of me before emotion overtook me and I vaped in the direction he told me to go.
No, I’ve made my decision. I don’t want to stop crying. Crying is my only friend as I shiver in this lush forest, the only one of its kind in Bastille. I rock back and forth, again burying my head into my arms, which rest on my knees.Civil War: Chronicles of Rondure: Book I, Chapter Eight: “Wilderness”
Civil War: Chronicles of Rondure: Book I was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest review.
Civil War is available in paperback and on Kindle, exclusive to Amazon).
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