Halls of Law by V.M. Escalada
The Faraman Polity was created by the first Luqs, and has been ruled for generations by those of the Luqs bloodline. It is a burgeoning empire maintained by the combined efforts of the standing military force and the Talents of the Halls of Law. While the military preserves and protects, it is the Halls' Talents—those gifted from birth with magical abilities—who serve as the agents and judges of the Law. For no one can successfully lie to a Talent. Not only can they read people by the briefest of physical contacts, but they can also read objects, able to find information about anyone who has ever come into direct contact with that object. Thanks to the Talents and the career military, the Polity has long remained a stable and successful society. But all that is about to change.
Seventeen-year-old Kerida Nast has always wanted a career in the military, just like the rest of her family. So when her Talent is discovered, and she knows she'll have to spend the rest of her life as a psychic for the Halls of Law, Ker isn't happy about it. Anyone entering the Halls must give up all personal connection with the outside world, losing their family and friends permanently. Just as Kerida is beginning to reconcile herself to her new role, the Polity is invaded by strangers from Halia, who begin a systematic campaign of destruction against the Halls, killing every last Talent they can find.
Kerida manages to escape, falling in with Tel Cursar, a young soldier fleeing the battle, which saw the deaths of the royal family. Having no obvious heir to the throne, no new ruler to rally behind, the military leaders will be divided, unable to act quickly enough to save the empire. And with the Halls being burned to the ground, and the Talents slaughtered, the Rule of Law will be shattered.
To avoid the invaders, Kerida and Tel are forced to enter old mining tunnels in a desperate attempt to carry word of the invaders to Halls and military posts that have not yet been attacked. But the tunnels hide a dangerous secret, a long-hidden colony of Feelers—paranormal outcasts shut away from the world for so long they are considered mythical. These traditional enemies of the Halls of Law welcome Kerida, believing she fulfills a Prophecy they were given centuries before by the lost race of griffins. With the help of these new allies, Kerida and Tel stand a chance of outdistancing the invaders and reaching their own troops. However, that is only the start of what will become a frantic mission to learn whether any heir to the throne remains, no matter how distant in the bloodline. Should they discover such a person, they will have to find the heir before the Halian invaders do. For if the Halians capture the future Luqs, it will spell the end of the Faraman Polity and the Rule of Law.
Published by Daw Books on August 1st 2017
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Genres: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Source: Advance Reader Copy
FTC Disclosure: I received access to this book early through Advance Reader Copy (for free) in exchange for a review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Rapid Fire Review: Halls of Law tells the story of a reluctant heroine with rich world building, uncomfortably recognizable gender-based issues wrapped up in a prophecy that makes this journeyman’s tale stands apart. It was a surprisingly quick read for almost 500 pages.
I loved how Escalda used the ever-controversial theme of women in power and a woman being a power to weave together the threads of political drama, social hierarchy, and knowledge of self to create a unique story and set the stage for some serious digs at the patriarchy.
It’s difficult for me not to get excited about a book with a well-executed coup-even if it is the bad guy’s plan. And there’s a magical Griffin…seriously.
The role propaganda plays throughout the book and the fact it’s worked into the very bedrock of an entire empire’s beliefs about the source of magic creates more than one fascinating twist and turn along the way. That misogynistic drive in action calls to mind both the Salem Witch trials and the Inquisition without taking anything away from the uniqueness of the world-building here. There’s nothing trite or affected or off-putting about the allegory Escalda’s set up and I enjoyed every word of it.
V.M. Escalda pulls the best elements of the fantasy genre to anchor her story firmly on the adventurous side. The magic system particularly isn’t unusual, but its application in this world as the Rule of Law is pretty brilliant and excellently lays the groundwork for a great beginning to a new series.