This is an adult book with what are, in my opinion, actually some pretty good characterizations of kids and teenagers. It’s got my favorite “school of magic” since Brakebills. It’s got a fairly complex “magic system” with a lot of potential. And it’s about killer nuns, isn’t that cool? Basically it’s everything I was hoping The Name of the Wind would be but wasn’t. This isn’t frivolous, jovial high fantasy, but there is occasional humor presented in a mostly natural, unforced way. It’s fairly grim and dark but, again, with some pretty decent representations of young people forming friendships, getting themselves into shenanigans, and growing up to be killer nuns.
There may or may not be a “chosen one,” who’s to say? (view spoiler) That title is passed around to a few different characters based on a prophecy (that may or may not have actually been given? How did that whole thing end up?) and different characters’ interpretations of it. There are a few other classic elements of magic schools and high fantasy in general but they’re mostly done in a way that isn’t cliche or “stock.”
Mark Lawrence writes very well. He doesn’t mince words or try too hard to be clever. He does a good job balancing the dark story with some genuinely likable, almost warm, elements. I was surprised and impressed with the quality of writing. This is probably the most excited I’ve been about high fantasy in a while. Lots of potential.
The audiobook narrator, Heather O’Neil (variously listed as Heather O’Neill) does a really great job and I’ll probably continue to listen to the rest of the trilogy. Recommended.