Kamzin has always wanted to be a royal explorer, climbing and charting mountains for the good of the empire. When the famous explorer River Shara offers her the chance to accompany him on his mysterious journey, she jumps at the chance, oblivious to the danger that awaits them.
As Kamzin’s journey progresses, Heather Fawcett draws us ever deeper into her world, which has a distinct geography. The majority of the empire is mountainous, which is why the emperor and his officials are incredibly reliant upon the royal explorers for information and maps. They are the eyes and ears of the emperor, serving as spies in regions that might be occupied by witches or other enemies and mapping out previously undiscovered regions of the empire.
Fawcett describes the climbing mechanics and scenes in vivid detail, making it easy for the readers to understand what is happening even if they’ve never left the safety of the ground. I’ve never been mountain climbing, but the process, emotions, and physical descriptions strike me as incredibly accurate and help give me a better understanding of the characters who are taking on these challenges. She also does well describing the magic system, and it does operate in a slightly different manner than some since physical objects are generally needed. However, we don’t understand the full extent why it operates as it does because that is part of the mystery in this world.
The characters in this story are vivid and real, but not altogether original. Kamzin is the girl from an outlying village with a big dream who never quite fit in, and River is the smooth talking, successful guy that everyone likes. As I read the story, I found myself caring about the characters and their fates. However, they didn’t strike me as terribly unique from the other YA characters I’ve been presented.
The main redeeming complexity for Kamzin is struggle between resenting her role and expectations as a daughter of an Elder, or village leader, and her desire to make her father and people proud. She wants them to be proud of her for her accomplishments, but she wants to accomplish something completely different than what’s on the path they set out for her. I for one can relate to this struggle. At some point or another, most of us end up defying some sort of expectations we’ve been given. Defying expectations results in difficulty, although most of us don’t end up on a quest through the mountains.
Finally, I would say my main disappointment in the book was the inevitability of the plot twist. I won’t spoil it for you, but I saw the main plot twist coming from the time Kamzin and River began their journey. I wish Fawcett had made this twist much less obvious because most fantasy readers are going to see exactly where she’s going. Striking a balance between a logical twist and a surprising twist is difficult, and in this instance Fawcett was on the logical side a little too much.
All this said, Kamzin’s story offers a refreshing setting with an interesting journey. The characters and plot won’t wow you, but overall this book is worth picking up for a weekend read.