Some books don’t resonate with a reader and unfortunately this one never really caught my interest. The writing is strong and there is good worldbuilding. But I also felt that I had read this story before; an amalgamation of dystopian and fantasy middle grade books that failed to engage. So I write this review with my thoughts but also the caveat that I am likely one of a very few who did not enjoy the book. Likely, that opinion has something to do with not having read the other books in this universe (though I am told that you don’t need to in order to understand Impyrium).
Story: Hazel is the youngest princess in the imperial Faeregrine family. An albino and outcast, she may just be the most powerful magic user in generations. Hob is a commoner who is about to find out that there was a lot more to his father than he was ever told. Royal and rebel both have reasons to distrust and hate the Faeregrines. When their paths meet, a dynasty may fall.
The story is told from two viewpoints: inside the imperial palace with Hazel and traveling/learning to be a rebel with Hob. The premise is a post apocalyptic world where technology has been carefully suppressed and doled out sparingly by the Faeregrines. They also control the magic relics that keep them in power. In this post apocalyptic world, we get cities such as Vancouver that have been completely destroyed/buried and then explored for artifacts.
For me, the characters felt a bit flat despite the very interesting world building. Hazel and Hob felt like every other middle grade hero/heroine – eager young puppy and privileged princess who each have to learn a new way of life with lives depending on them. Of course, they will have to deal with different situations (Hazel with the politics and Hob with the physical dangers) and triumph or very bad things happen.
The worldbuilding is solid but there were several cliches in there. E.g., learning about the world through sitting through Hazel or Hob’s school lessons (who wants to sit through someone else’s lesson?) . As well, we have the bog standard overheard secret, special snowflake, father with a mysterious past, and mysterious stranger who inducts our hero. Let’s not get into the special friends who help and are put in danger for it. The book is very earnest – perhaps a bit too much for my taste. It can get dense in there.
As noted earlier, I am likely very atypical in being underwhelmed. In no way are there any major flaws and the writing is well done. I just didn’t get into it as I hoped I would. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.