Ahoy there me mateys . . .
irona 700 (Dave Duncan)
This book was a random pick off the new fiction bookshelf at a local library because of its name on the spine. The name made me pick it up. The cover had a strong-looking woman on the front, a sword, and best of all: ships. Arrrrr!
That made me flip it over. The back of the novel had a wonderful description and so it got added to the stack of reading material already piled high that day. I had never heard of the author but I thoroughly enjoyed this fantasy novel. This book is the story of Irona 700 who is plucked from obscurity and lands in the ruling class of the kingdom of Benign.
As a side note the word “benign” means:
1: of a gentle disposition: gracious
2a: showing kindness and gentleness
2b: favorable, wholesome
3a: of a mild type or character that does not threaten health or life; especially: not becoming cancerous
3b: having no significant effect: harmless. Source.
Ahem. Well the city in this novel does not match what we think it should mean. Benign as the capital of the Empire is hardly gentle and is certainly prejudicial about its own status and importance. So the city name made me smile.
The main character Irona 700 however, is awesome, intelligent yet flawed, and just wonderful to read about. The plot follows the main character through the years and showcases the politics of Benign, the choices Irona 700 makes along the way, and the personal cost of making those choices.
The first half of the book was certainly more interesting to me than the second half because it showcases Irona 700’s personal growth and the establishment of her standing in the ruling governmental body. Other readers may find the second half to be slower and even perhaps boring because it details the changing of the political status quo. It is less about the character herself evolving but more about the world changing around her. The ending was just distressing, if somewhat predictable, and may disgruntle some readers. I loved the political structure and the character so the book worked for me overall.
The back cover that entranced me had this to say:
It is Midsummer Day, the beginning of the year 700, in the city of Benign. All the children born in the year 684 celebrate their joint sixteenth birthday by passing in front of the statue of the blind goddess Caprice—but only one will become the Chosen and join the Seventy who govern and guide the city.
Much to her surprise, Irona Matrinko, one of the many children of an impoverished fisherman, is chosen. Irona 700 moves into the palace and, with the help of a new mentor, recognizes and cultivates her great talent for guiding wars: strategy and tactics, leadership and inspiration.
As Irona gives her life to the city, an ancient enemy, Maleficence, attacks again and again, corrupting Irona’s friends, destroying her lover, and continually defeating her grandest plans for peace and harmony. Along the way, Irona becomes a masterful politician, a shrewd judge of character, and, even at great cost to her personal happiness, a true heroine.
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