Relic by Brownyn Eley
Published by Talem Press
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In the city of Edriast, there is no deadlier duty than to serve as the Shadow.
As the personal servant of the powerful Lord Rennard, the Shadow's life is all but forfeit. Rennard possesses one of five rare and dangerous Relics – a jewel that protects his bloodline, but slowly poisons everyone else in its proximity. When the current Shadow succumbs to its magic, nineteen-year-old blacksmith Kaylan is summoned to take his place.
It's an appointment that will kill her.
As the time Kaylan has left ebbs away, hope begins to fade... That is, until she discovers a plot to destroy all five bloodlines in possession of the Relics.
A rebel force plans to put an end to Rennard's rule and Kaylan suddenly finds herself embroiled in a cause that might just be worth fighting for. But no cause is without its costs…
As her life hangs in the balance and rebellion bears down on Edriast, Kaylan must decide where her loyalties lie – and how she'll leave her mark on the world.
Relic is Bronwyn Eley’s debut novel, and the first instalment of The Relic Trilogy, an Australian YA fantasy series published by Talem Press. I’ve had it on my TBR for a while (first just on Goodreads but I ordered myself a copy when I was stocking up on books during lockdown earlier in the year). Given the second book, Riven, is coming out next week I thought it was the perfect time to get stuck into it.
The concept for this story is quite unique, and Relic does a great job of building up your understanding of the situation and magic system ready for whatever wild adventures will occur in the next book. It’s not primarily world-building though, Bronwyn Eley does a good job of balancing all these aspects with Kaylan’s character development and establishing and examining her relationship to the various people around her. The plot moves forward quite slowly, which could frustrate some readers. However, I found it worked well for me especially as the last quarter of the book was action-packed and full of unexpected twists.
The world created is quite bleak, full of struggles and suffering due to a brutal ruler who sees ruthless order as necessary and beneficial to those over whom he exerts authority. Throughout the story, Kaylan struggles to decide if alternatives are better; she’s not a fantasy character that jumps straight into revolution and she is especially loath to consider any actions that may have risky consequences for her family. I really appreciated the way her approach underpinned the narrative, to demonstrate that she didn’t have any good options.
Ultimately this is a very character-driven story, mostly focusing on the impacts on Kaylan of being the Shadow and the additional complexity this adds to her relationships. In many ways, being chosen as the Shadow works in an interesting way to twist the usual trope of the chosen one. She’s not special, just the next sacrifice in a long line of suffering and death.
Kaylan is thrown into a new situation in which she not only has no knowledge of people’s history or context, she also increasingly cannot trust her own perception of what is real. This adds a great element to the way the story really focuses on her relationships. While I do enjoy a good romance, I liked that in this book was a thread within a friendship rather than central to the whole story.
I also liked that the characters tended to be generous in the face of misunderstandings. Not always, but the characters responded with attempts at understanding each other’s perspectives and the complexities of being a person struggling through the world that I thought was very refreshing. There is tension and conflict, but not an often frustrating level of misunderstanding that authors can use to create those elements.
Overall, a really enjoyable start to a fantasy series with plenty of introspection and character development. I enjoyed the complexity of the various characters and really look forward to seeing what happens next. The twist at the end was incredible: both emotionally powerful and unexpected.
Bronwyn Eley is an Australian author. You can find her online via her website or social media: Instagram or Twitter.