My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Building a universe which is familiar enough to make sense, yet otherworldly enough to compel the imagination, is no easy task. Nonetheless, this is what Katherine Hurley has accomplished with The Griever’s Mark series.
Astarti is a young woman who has grown up in the shadow (and fear) of the story’s antagonist, Belos, who – as any decent villain with ambitions – plots for absolute domination of everyone and everything. Astarti is leashed to her master by a bond of energy, and is thus bound to do his will or suffer the consequences. Belos is a cruel master, but he’s the only sort of family, Astarti has: According to Belos, she was abandoned at birth. A story that’s hard to disbelieve, as Astarti has “the Griever’s Mark”: A tattoo given to unwanted children.
The story is set in a medieval-like environment. The world (at least the parts of it, we encounter) is comprised of The Dry Land, The Green Lands and The Floating Lands. Interwoven with the physical world are The Drift and The Current – intangible worlds of energy and life force, the former a sort of web constituted by the energy flowing between living creatures, while the latter is “powered by” the life force flowing in trees.
Humans and Earthmakers are the most prominent races in the story. Both can wield magic: The Drifters are usually human, and very powerful, though there are few of them left. They have the ability to manipulate the web of energy known as the Drift. The long-lived Earthmakers can enter and travel by means of the Current and they wield the power of the elements – earth, water, air and fire. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that the boundaries between the two types of magic are not as clear-cut as they appear initially. Speculations on the nature of the magic hold a prominent place throughout the book, and this is one of the things I loved best about the story.
The story revolves around two main characters, Astarti and Logan. It is written in first person perspective, switching between the two protagonists. However, as Astarti is the character whose perspective dominates throughout the majority of the first book, she’s also the one I felt most connected to. Hurley portrays Astarti through a richness of inner dialogue and moral reflections. Having been leashed to Belos since she turned seven, Astarti has done things, which have compromised her inherent sense of morality, in order to stay alive. I found the development of her character believable, relatable and intriguing, and I was eager to watch Astarti redeem herself, while at the same time appreciating the fact that her past actions have taught her invaluable lessons about her own true nature.
We’re introduced to Logan, who is a Warden, in chapter 2, but it takes quite a while before we get more than a cursory glimpse of his nature. Hurley unfolds Logan’s personality very slowly, corresponding to the mutual feeling of trust growing between the two main characters. When Astarti fails to complete an order, she must flee Belos to save herself from his possibly deadly retaliation, and Logan becomes her safe haven, just like she becomes his. They have an undeniable chemistry, but the budding romance is complicated by the fact that Earthmakers are not allowed to be with Drifters. Bringing Astarti to Avydos, home of the Earthmakers, in order to keep her safe from Belos, brings on a whole new set of problems. Soon it becomes apparent that Logan is a lonely soul, set apart from his kin by his difficulties controlling his elemental powers, as well as his temper. He’s haunted by his past, but so is Astarti, and their shared grievances turn out to be a firm basis for friendship.
The development of the romance takes up quite a bit of space, but I enjoyed this aspect of the story (being a sucker for romance :p). I did find Logan a bit too messed up at times, but considering the ordeals, he goes through, and the trauma he suffered as a child, his angsty attitude makes sense. Astarti is, on the other hand, a heroine very much to my liking. She’s calm, cool and collected, she’s a skilled warrior, intelligent and pragmatic. She cuts through bullshit and lies as easily, as she kicks ass, and she never ever gives up.
The story had a nice flow to it – wellpaced and actionpacked, while at the same time there were quiet moments, which allowed the characters to reflect on their experiences. The plot climaxes with an evil cliffhanger, which made me grateful for the fact that all three installments in the series have been published.
All in all: This is a truly well-written novel with a mythological depth to it, I found to be satisfying and intriguing. With the Griever’s Mark-series Hurley has become one of my favourite authors, and I’ll be sure to read anything she publishes from now on. 🙂