This book contains:
- Attempted and completed murder
- Assault and sexual assault
- Poisoning (not trying to kill).
Nikolai and Medea are the main characters, with almost all of the story told from Nikolai’s point of view.
Nikolai is a powerful wizard who’s determined to be the biggest, strongest dark wizard in history. Unfortunately for him, he’s apprenticed to a wizard who won’t teach him and who’s determined to have him learn only things that can help people or pretend to hurt people.
Medea is an autistic (don’t worry, this is explained in the author’s notes at the end so it wasn’t over the top and stupid in the book) mage who’s practically immortal and determined to not train anymore dark wizards. Given her history with apprentices, she doesn’t want to have to kill any more of them.
Nikolai finds out about Medea by accident, but as soon as he does, he’s intent on figuring out how to convince her to take him on as an apprentice. From there, we follow along as Nikolai does his best effort at a “normal” apprentice wanting to learn to try and convince Medea to take him on.
When he finally does convince her, we follow along to Medea’s home and the beginnings of his training to become the strongest wizard he can be.
As I read this, I knew there was something about Medea that wasn’t “normal”, it wasn’t until I got to the authors note at the end that I understood why. What I appreciated and I think many people will, is that Medea is autistic, and rather than describe her as the over the top, media exaggerated type of autistic, Val has gone to the effort to describe her as authentically as possible.
Autism has a spectrum with many ways of presenting in each individual. Where most depictions of autism is very far at one end and exaggerated, Medea clearly sits somewhere in the middle where you can tell that there’s something different to “normal”, but you can’t necessarily quite put your finger on what it is.
In terms of the rest of the story, it was your typical kind of fantasy with twists and turns, magic and some drama. The twist at the end is probably something I should have guessed (I certainly feel like I should have guessed it), but I didn’t so I was shocked when it was revealed. And then the big outburst that happened flipped a switch and it was amazing to see it all come together so well and made me instantly wonder “what happens next?”
Since the second book (Dark Mind) wasn’t out yet when I finished this, I couldn’t jump straight in but I really should ask for a copy because I’m stoked to keep reading!