Of fire and fiends...

I am subscribed to Elliot Brook's channel on YouTube and while I don't watch all of her content religiously, I do enjoy quite a lot of it. After having read Daniel B. Greene's (he is another YouTube/BookTube personality) novel in September, I wanted to give Brook's debut novel a try as well.

5/5 While PEACE AND TURMOIL may not be a perfect book, I had such a lovely time reading it that I couldn't imagine giving it anything les than five stars. 

Unsurprisingly, the characters in this book are one of the strongest elements of the story. Brooks has talked a lot about how she is a very character-driven reader and I think that shows through here in the best possible way. The story initially centers around three young royals from different kingdoms: Dietrich of Sadie, Gwenivere of Xenith, and Roland of Messidia. Each of them have a full supporting cast around them and more perspectives are gradually added to the mix over time with Xodia of Eve being the biggest standout. All of them are charming and yet also flawed in rather relatable ways. There's a lot of difficult situations that these characters find themselves in and seeing how they navigate them was truly a joy as these are characters who are just trying to do their best and sometimes their decisions lead to misfortune for themselves or someone else. I also enjoyed that some of them are named after characters from mythology and Arthurian legends. 

This fantasy setting is a rather sprawling world. I enjoyed how it felt big, but not overwhelming since the story primarily plays out within the nations of Xenith, Messidia, and Sadie, although some other locations like Eve and Riverdee also play a part. I wouldn't say that this book has the most extensive world building I have ever seen in a fantasy novel, but I did have a pretty clear picture in my head of what each location looked like and felt as though I understood the various cultures well due to Brook's strong characterizations. Sadie's dark history made for a particularly interesting bit of intrigue and I imagine this will be expanded upon in future entries to the series. I also wanted to learn more about Eve. We get little nuggets of information and have a few brief chapters set there, but so much still remains a mystery. Overall, I know a lot of people who read epic fantasy want to know every little detail about their fantasy world and I don't think this necessarily offers that, but there is more than enough backdrop provided for these places to play a meaningful role in the story and that is more so what I really want out of a fantasy setting. 

I was also really intrigued by the magic in this world. It's not a particularly "hard" magic system, but I liked how simple and clear it was. The idea of everyone having different colored auras that they can tap into depending on their proficiency/training in doing so was really interesting and I liked how each color tied to a specific element. The way that death is handled with one's auras leaving the body in colorful wisps reminded me of FINAL FANTASY X, which I appreciated as well. 

For me, I felt like PEACE AND TURMOIL struck the perfect balance between light and dark. The characters are all mostly well-intentioned, but they definitely find themselves engaging in some pretty questionable things as well as some pretty intense battles. I was surprised that this ended up being as action-packed as it was. The opening thirty percent or so plays out relatively peacefully with the book just introducing us to the characters and the relationships between the different nations. Somewhere around the forty percent mark, a dramatic event shakes things up in some in some big ways and propels the plot forward. As someone who considers myself more plot-driven, I really appreciated this payoff and enjoyed how impactful the battles were on the events that followed. 

Structurally, I think fans of Brandon Sanderson's work will feel right at home here, which makes sense since Brooks is quite a fan of him. I really liked how each chapter follows specific characters and begins with excerpts from letters, in-world texts, and journal entries similar to THE STORMLIGHT ARCHIVE. I loved that there are so many parallels that can be drawn between PEACE AND TURMOIL and other works of fiction without this book ever feeling derivative of any of them. There was this distinct sense of nostalgia that I felt while reading that I could never quite put my finger on, but made the story feel comforting to me. One thing I will say is that while the conclusion is satisfying in many ways, it leaves off with some decidedly open ends meant as clear segue ways into the next book. While I understood why this was the case, I also have no idea when Brooks will be releasing the sequel, so I did wish for a little more closure. 

As with most Kindle books these days, this one was well put together. One really nice touch was the different illustrations for some of the characters and fiends that show up during the story. Being the greedy person that I am, I wished that there were even more of these images gracing the pages, but I am also grateful for what was included. I also enjoyed that the chapter dividers for different characters seemed to be related to the symbols for each nation. 

I definitely think this is a book that people should check out. There is a classical, yet also modern feel to Brooks' writing and an undeniable charm to the story, world, and characters that have been crafted here. I anxiously await book two. 

(+) Charming and relatably flawed characters
(+) Exciting action sequences
(+) Light political intrigue
(+) A unique fantasy world
(+) Some beautiful illustrations scattered throughout
(-) Some occasional and very minor line errors and odd sentence flows
(-) A somewhat cliff hanger-y feel to the ending


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