Andrew grew up in the royal palace of Novania, the eldest son of the queen. He went on to achieve fame and glory as a renowned soldier, and was eventually named commander of the king’s army. The kingdom believed he would be named heir to the throne, but he has long known he is ineligible. The king is not his father.
The truth of Andrew’s lineage is only partially known to the king; the identity of his father is a mystery that even Andrew is unaware of. He knows only that his father was a dragon-mage, and the dragons have fled to another world. Andrew is a skin-changer, but the laws of Novania forbid his very existence. If the king were to learn the truth of what he is, he would face execution.
The laws are equally hostile to humans born with the Mark of the Magi and the ability to wield magic. Andrew’s younger half-brother, Alexander, bears the Mark. The pair keep one another’s secrets into adulthood… Until the king dies unexpectedly and Colin ascends the throne.
When Alexander’s Mark is revealed for all to see, Andrew is faced with a choice: To watch his brother be killed, or reveal his true nature in an effort to save him from the headsman’s axe.
Exile is a unique and gripping epic fantasy that I had a blast reading. My only complaint with this novel is I wanted it to be longer so I wouldn’t have to leave the story. I think epic fantasy readers looking for something a little different will find a lot to like in Exile.
Exile is first-person and our only POV is Andrew, the eldest son of the King and Commander of the King’s army. In the opening of the novel we learn a secret, Andrew isn’t really the son of the King. Andrew’s mother was pregnant with Andrew when she met the King, so although the King raised Andrew as his own son, Andrew cannot inherit the throne. This is a secret that they have kept from everyone else but now the King must name a successor and must reveal Andrew’s parentage to everyone in the kingdom and name Andrew’s half-brother Colin as successor. This isn’t Andrew’s biggest secret though. Andrew’s real father was a dragon mage, capable of taking human form. This makes Andrew a skin changer, half human and half dragon, and can take the form of either one. No one, not even the King knows Andrew’s true nature. There is one more secret, Andrew’s younger half-brother Alexander bears the Mark, denoting him as a magi. Only Andrew knows about this because by law Alexander would be hunted down and killed is it became public knowledge. Now that’s a lot of secrets thrown at you pretty quickly but it sets the stage for the rest of the novel. The bond between Andrew and Alexander is one of the highlights of the novel for me. They are closer to each other than to their 2 other brothers, perhaps in part because they are both harboring secrets that make them feel like outcasts even as members of the royal family. Andrew swore to their mother on her deathbed that he would protect Alexander, and he takes that responsibility very seriously, willing to do anything it takes to keep Alexander safe. As a reader with 3 brothers I love this sort of brotherly bond in fantasy and I wish we saw more of it, but the author does a wonderful job in capturing all the aspects of the relationship between brothers with these two and it was a delight to see.
One of the other more unordinary aspects to Andrew is that he unlike many other epic fantasy protagonists he is middle-aged. He is in his mid-thirties and Andrew his mid-twenties. So rather than seeing young protagonists grow and mature, we already have a fully mature man, though one who still has his own issues and challenges to overcome. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy a good coming of age story, but it can be a breath of fresh air sometimes to not have to follow immature teens making stupid decisions. Along those lines the romantic aspects of this novel are also much more mature and interesting than many epic fantasies. Though not something that takes up a lot of page count, the romance in this novel is so heartwarming and sweet. The author did a fantastic job in showing how this relationship affects and changes Andrew in many ways. I can’t get into it without spoilers but coming from someone who doesn’t enjoy romance, this was a joy to read.
I think the book was paced perfectly, it was generally fast-paced, though it slowed down when it needed to, especially towards the beginning. We get to see plenty of combat as well, with Andrew in both human and dragon form. Andrew has spent the vast majority of his life hiding his nature so he hasn’t spent much time as a dragon. Because of this he has to learn how to do many things as a dragon, and explore his combat capabilities as well. I also enjoyed the worldbuilding aspects that we did see in this book, it wasn’t all that much but there is an insect-like sentient species that I hope we see more of in future novels in the series. We get enough glimpses to know that there is much more to this world than we see in Exile, and I have a feeling that quest set up towards the end will lead to much more exploration. The same is true for the magic, we learn a little at the end of the book but I can’t wait to learn more about it because it sounds very interesting.
I really enjoyed my time with Exile, I read the book in two sittings and I wanted so much more. As I understand it this will be a 4 book series, of which all 4 have already been written. The second book is due out in November and I couldn’t be more excited to get into the adventure after all the setup in this first novel. If you like character-driven epic fantasy and are looking for something outside the normal tale, definitely check out Exile, you won’t be disappointed.