Review: “The Guild Of The Cowry Catchers, Book I–Embers” by Abigail Hilton

Title: Embers
Author: Abigail Hilton
Series: The Guild Of The Cowry Catchers #1
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Pavonine Books, 2013

I have to say, I am very conflicted when it comes to this book. On the one hand, the writing was decent, especially considering it was free. I liked the main characters by the end, even the one you start the book hating by default because the protagonist does. The world was fairly well developed, and the worldbuilding exposition not too intrusive. The flipside of this? The world that was so well developed makes my skin crawl. I’ll get to that below. Also, I was under the impression that this was the first book in a series–as in, a complete story set within the larger context of the series arc. Instead, it’s a serial. There’s no resolution, just a slightly-more-final-than-usual chapter break with a vaguely ominous teaser for what happens next. I admire the business strategy, making the first part of the story free to get you hooked, but I’m still annoyed at having to shell out money if I want to find out what happens next. Will I? Not sure, honestly. Not for a while, at any rate. If it’s still bugging me in a month or so I might spring for it. Depends on my book-buying budget. (This is not to slam serials, just to vent slightly because what I got was not what I expected. My fault, not the author’s.) All that said, I would recommend giving this a look. This first installment is free from Amazon in the illustrated version, and the illustrations are undeniably beautiful. They lost something on my B&W Kindle, of course, so my future purchases will probably be the cheaper unillustrated collection. I did go back and look at the illustrations on my computer in color, but they’re not worth the extra money to me. They might be to you….

The islands of Wefrivain thrive on inequality and division. They are populated by humanoid shelts (think the fauns and satyrs of mythology, but with more variety in their non-human half) and unified only by the heavy-handed wyvern cult that has rooted out and persecuted all other religious expression. The dominant species are the Grishnards, griffin-shelts, with other panauns (shelts with paws instead of hooves) living as second-class citizens. The various species of fauns (hoofed shelts) suffer a far worse fate, nearly wiped out on most of the islands save the one that is kept as a game preserve, and even there facing the constant threat of being hunted and eaten. Not surprisingly, there’s a spirited resistance group of pirates and other similar parties fighting to overturn the social order. Each of the varied islands is an isolated kingdom, beholden and answering only to wyverns and their ageless High Priestess.

Gerard Holovar is the High Priestess’ newest Captain of the Police, promoted from the ranks of the Temple Watch navy after a particularly spectacular capture of a pirate vessel. Gerard is tasked with finding and destroying Sky Town, the rumored headquarters of the resistance, but for that he will need the help of Silveo Lamire, his former commander who has tried to kill him on multiple occasions…..

As I said above, I’m conflicted on this one. In the plus column, the world was pretty well fleshed out and seemed pretty real given it’s premise. I even have to grant that the parts that creep me out make a fair amount of sense, given the animal-based biology of the characters and society. But…it’s so disturbing! Now, the characters in the story are humanoid descendants of carnivorous and herbivorous beasts respectively, so the dynamic remains unchanged from ages past. I get that, really I do. But any story where sentient beings are being eaten by other sentient beings just gives me the heebie-jeebies. I like Gerard, really I do. Against my better judgement, I was even growing fond of Silveo by the end of the book. But the fact remains that Gerard and Silveo are working to preserve the horrific status quo. I like them, but I can’t help hoping they fail in their quest to track down Sky Town. I suspect that this is deliberate, and my issues on this count will be resolved in later installments….

CONTENT: I don’t recall there being any profanity worth mentioning. There is a fair amount of violence, sometimes disturbing given the whole eating-each-other thing. There is also some sexual content, not too explicit this time but I gather that it gets more so in later books.

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