Children of Fire - Drew Karpyshyn I'd looked forward to this novel for a long time, ever since last year when Drew Karpyshyn announced he was leaving BioWare to focus on his own original book project. Having very much enjoyed his work in video games in the past, including the novels that spawned out of the Mass Effect and Star Wars: The Old Republic universes, I was disappointed to see him go but was also very curious as to what he was working on.

Turned out, it was Children of Fire, the first book of his idea for a new epic fantasy series, and it sounded something he'd been cooking in his head for long time. After years of reading his Star Wars and video game tie-in novels, I was very interested in seeing what Drew can do with his very own story and characters. My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with this e-ARC.

About the book:

Long ago, a great warrior called Daemron was was chosen by the gods to lead the war against the Chaos spawn. He was given three magical talismans to aid him in the fight -- a crown, a ring, and a sword. Daemron, however, grew corrupted with their power and ended up turning against the gods. The savior of the world instead became its destroyer.

Daemron was thwarted in the end, banished to a plane beyond the Chaos Sea, sealed behind barrier called the Legacy. A religious cabal called The Order have been tasked to maintain this magical shield, protecting the world from the Chaos and its minions. The three magical talismans were hidden away or lost.

Now the Legacy weakens, and Daemron grows strong enough to cast his essence into the world. Across the land, four Chaos-touched children are born beneath a blood red moon, each embodying an aspect of Daemron himself. Though Keegan, Scythe, Vaaler, and Cassandra grow up in different places with different lives, their fates are intertwined -- but whether it is their destiny to restore the Legacy or unleash the destroyer upon the world is yet unknown.

My thoughts:

I loved lots of things about this book, and on the top of that list was the sweeping, overarching feel of the story. The introduction including the details surrounding the four children's origins was in my opinion the best part of the book. While all born of "suffering and strife", the background and circumstances of each child were nonetheless unique and interesting.

The character development continues as we follow the four children, and we get glimpses into the major events of their lives as they grow up. But as we edged closer towards the present and more and more talk of fate and destiny crept into the picture, that's when I hit a wall. I still enjoyed the story very much, but at this point everything began to feel a lot more run-of-the-mill and typical.

It is possible that I am just a bit more critical of the fantasy I read these days, especially if they come with the description of "innovative epic fantasy", but I admit I expected a lot more from the characters and plot. Both bordered on the cut-and-dried and formulaic after while, which I felt was the main thing holding back the story. I know the concept of the Big-Damn-Hero-destined-to-save-the-world is one that's tried and true, but it's very in-your-face here and nowadays I crave a lot more out of my fantasy reads.

And maybe I'm just still not used to seeing the author's writing outside of media adaptations, but while I love his "pulpy" style in Star Wars and game tie-in books, here it kind of feels out of place for the kind of story he wants to tell. I thought that more focus could have been placed on the setting and supporting characters too, to give the story as a whole more of an "epic" vibe, because I didn't feel like I was getting enough of history and identity from this original world he's establishing from scratch. The Danaan people and their cities come to mind, for example.

I also think some of the points I brought up above could do with the pacing. I think Drew Karpyshyn did a fantastic job presenting to us his main characters, considering there are four of them and that's quite a few different perspectives to follow. Keegan gets the bulk of the attention, though, and I wished we could have seen more of of the others at different ages because it feels like a couple of them disappear for a long stretches at a time. When they resurface, sometimes years afterward, I don't feel like I know them enough anymore to know if it only seems like dialogue feels forced, or if they are actually acting out of character.

Overall, this ended up being more of a fun read than a truly epic read, and became a lot better once I shifted my expectations accordingly. It felt like the book could have benefited from a little more structural editing to address pacing issues and plot and character development, but it was a great introduction to a brand new world of magic and fantasy lore. I'm a big fan of Drew Karpyshyn, and I'm glad he finally got the chance to bring his own ideas to life and share it with his readers.