Title: Range of Ghosts
Author: Elizabeth Bear
Genre: Fantasy, historical fantasy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Goodreads Summary:Temur, grandson of the Great Khan, is walking away from a battlefield where he was left for dead. All around lie the fallen armies of his cousin and his brother, who made war to rule the Khaganate. Temur is now the legitimate heir by blood to his grandfather's throne, but he is not the strongest. Going into exile is the only way to survive his ruthless cousin.
Once-Princess Samarkar is climbing the thousand steps of the Citadel of the Wizards of Tsarepheth. She was heir to the Rasan Empire until her father got a son on a new wife. Then she was sent to be the wife of a Prince in Song, but that marriage ended in battle and blood. Now she has renounced her worldly power to seek the magical power of the wizards.
These two will come together to stand against the hidden cult that has so carefully brought all the empires of the Celadon Highway to strife and civil war through guile and deceit and sorcerous power.
I absolutely loved this! I'm two for two on Elizabeth Bear's books (Karen Memory and this one), definitely going to check out more of her stories. There's just something about her writing style that conveys the richness and uniqueness of the worlds and characters without being particularly flowery or gimmicky. Obviously a fantasy world based on Mongolia in the age of Genghis Khan is very different than a steampunk American town out of a western, and Bear's writing style adapts to these worlds so seamlessly! I feel like I'm doing a terrible job of explaining this but I just love how well Elizabeth Bear's writing style fits with the worlds she creates.
I absolutely loved the worldbuilding in this book. Every little detail was so well thought out, from the many moons and the magic system to the minutiae of how you manage to keep your nomadic community fed while you travel across an unforgiving desert (fermented mare's milk and lots of tea eggs!). I love how steeped this world is in eastern culture without relying on stereotypes; this is a world that was thoroughly researched and lovingly crafted.
The characters were all amazing. They were all three-dimensional and complicated, and their relationships with each other are quite tangled. Temur must battle his own family members for his rightful place on the throne, knowing that there is no line his enemies won't cross to kill him and rule the nation. I absolutely love how there are so many women in this book, each powerful in their own way. Edene, Samarkar, even Payma...All of these wonderful human beings aside, my favorite characters in this book were the horses. Bansh (Dumpling! How adorable is that??) is such a heroic, resourceful, and loyal horse. I adored Temur and Bansh's relationship, and I'm excited to see how the story progresses in the later books.
I don't want to say much about the plot because this is story involving a lot of political intrigue and spiritual journeying. I was never bored with this book; even the slower parts were beautifully written and only added to richness of the story.
I highly recommend this series! I'm surprised it isn't more popular, because it has everything I love about fantasy done well.