“This book will be a real winner for people who like their fantasy to be thick (in all the best ways), heavily world-built, and deeply rooted in Roman history.”
What it’s about:
She left a slave. She returns a conqueror.
As an Adept, Reiva blasts fire from her hands and leaps over walls. But when her first solo mission leaves her half-dead amidst a heap of massacred allies, she gets just one chance at redemption.
The Empire orders her to crush the one kingdom she thought she would never see again: Talynis, the land of her birth, the land she left in chains.
Standing in her way is the Wolf, a vicious assassin hellbent on killing Adepts—and a single cut from his cursed blade will destroy Reiva’s magic forever.
Even if she can survive, victory may come at a price too high to pay…
I think the thing that caught my eye first and foremost is the beautiful cover on The Empire’s Lion. It does everything a cover should do; it draws your attention, and gives an excellent vibe of what you’ll find within the book. I knew it was Grecco/Roman + magic immediately, and sinking into the first pages, that impression is quickly and efficiently confirmed.
The Empire’s Lion is a chonker (849 pages on my Kindle) but anyone who knows me will know that this isn’t a problem in my eyes! If you connect with a chonker, you just get more to love! More to savour! Tudor’s writing is crisp and clean, and I liked Reiva. The worldbuilding is solid, but I found the rapid-fire of names that I needed to learn in early chapters slowed me down some. This, of course, is a matter of taste and style and not at all a flaw; I understand how hard it is to set the scene when you’re a big worldbuilder. I found Avi’s chapters were more guilty of this, whereas Reiva’s chapters were build more gently and it made her POV much easier to connect to.
Don’t assume that just because the book is heavily world-built that it’s slow! Reiva gets herself into trouble very quickly and the action hangs on to you and doesn’t let go.
The biggest barrier for me was Tudor’s narrative style, which often felt like I was being held and arm’s length. There’s a distance to his prose that sometimes undercut the urgency of the action. For some reason, this stood out more in Avi’s chapters, which is probably why I connected to those chapters less than Reiva’s.
I very much liked the effort Tudor put into the in-world texts that opened every chapter. It made the world live and breathe, setting an excellent tone. In fact, it was in the epigraphs that I found my favourite line, and a theme that I love seeing crop up in fiction:
‘Much is made of Lazarran virtue. But there is no greater Lazarran vice than pride—and it was our wounded pride that drove us to resort to such underhanded treachery as happened in the siege of Dav-maiir.’
Ultimately, I am a character reader first and foremost. So while I found Tudor’s worldbuilding well executed and his concepts intelligently assembled, the style of his prose made it difficult for me to sink as deeply into his characters as I like to. Again this is not something that is necessarily a flaw in his style, it’s simply my taste showing. It often felt like his characters were keeping me out rather than drawing me into the knitty gritty of their beating hearts, which made it difficult for me to keep up when things got muddled up in the sharp-as-a-knife action.
This book will be a real winner for people who like their fantasy to be thick (in all the best ways), heavily world-built, and deeply rooted in Roman history.
However, for the purposes of SPFBO, this is a cut.
My condolences to the author, and I wish Tudor the very best of luck.