Lords of Rainbow by Vera Nazarian is the first book in a duology, although it is a complete story that works perfectly well as a stand alone novel. (I actually thought it was a stand alone book until I looked at the works in progress on Nazarian’s site and saw that she was working on a “standalone sequel” called Lady of Monochrome.) This fantasy story was unique and beautifully written, although it had a few flaws that kept it from being as outstanding as it could have been. That being said, this is only Nazarian’s second novel and it was still good enough to keep me up reading until 4 am, so I think she definitely has potential to be an outstanding novelist.
Lords of Rainbow is a mix of adventure, political intrigue, and romance told in a fantastic setting. Many years ago, color left the world and its inhabitants can only see various shades of gray. The only colors in the world come from expensive specialized lights, a form of magic made by the secretive Light Guild in the kingdom of Tronaelend-Lis. It bodes ill for this kingdom, led by a pair of siblings who are rather weak rulers, when a dark man comes to the city claiming he is paving the way for his master, who should not be named.
Ranhe, a young warrior woman, finds herself in the midst of the turmoil in the city after she stumbles across Elasand, a young nobleman protecting his aunt and cousin from an attack by several men in dark clothes. After concluding these men must be the deadly Bilhaar assassins she had believed to be mere rumors, Ranhe helps the man out anyway and together they manage to fight off the attackers. Impressed by Ranhe’s fighting ability, Elasand enlists her aid as a bodyguard when they run into each other at a nearby inn later. After much coercing, Ranhe agrees to be Elasand’s bodyguard under the condition that she is free to leave at any time she chooses – whether the timing is convenient for Elasand or not.
The prose in this book is elegant, poetic, and a delight to read. Even the descriptions of the monochrome world were gorgeous. However, there were two occasions where there were about 8 pages of just description, which was too much for my taste. For the first 2 or 3 pages I did not mind since the way it was written was quite lovely, but after that I started wanting to get on with the story. Since that was only about 16 pages out of over 400, it was not a huge problem, though.
The characters in this book were wonderfully done and each one captured my interest. Ranhe is one of those elusive creatures – a believable female character. She is a warrior, and because of that, she is not feminine although she also has problems that women can relate to. Ranhe is intelligent and witty and not at all the damsel in distress type. The other characters have their flaws and their strengths as well, and I really enjoyed learning more about Elasirr and Elasand throughout the book.
Although I enjoyed reading about all the characters, no matter how minor they were, I did feel like there were far too many minor characters introduced in the first 100 pages of the book. The first quarter of the book skipped back and forth between Ranhe’s story and a few pages on various other characters who were mentioned briefly enough in a short span that it made it hard to keep track of them all. After that, the story was mainly about Ranhe and these characters were barely even mentioned again until toward the end of the story. I felt like less focus on these characters in the beginning and more on Ranhe would have made the story tighter and less confusing, and knowing less about these other characters would not have taken away from the overall story.
The world in this story was unique and a pleasant change from the cliche fantasy settings. There was little magic other than the ability to create color and a mythological backstory involving a plethora of gods and goddesses. No races other than humans existed in this world and it did not feel like the city was reminiscent of medieval Europe to me.
The highlight of this book for me was Ranhe’s story and that’s the main reason I kept reading. When the book was about Ranhe, I found it extremely difficult to put down. The interactions between her and other characters kept the story interesting, and she is one of the more memorable characters I have read about this year.
Although the story could have been tightened up a bit in the first quarter of the book, it was an excellent tale. I would recommend it to anybody looking for a unique fantasy setting, poetic prose, and a strong female lead, and I look forward to seeing what Nazarian does with Lady of Monochrome.