In the first book of Henry Neff’s new high-stakes middle grade fantasy series, two unlikely allies—the Faeregine princess Hazel and the servant boy Hob—confront a conspiracy that will shake the world of Impyrium to its core. For over three thousand years, the Faeregine dynasty has ruled Impyrium. But the family’s magic has been fading, and with it their power over the empire. Whether it’s treachery from a rival house, the demon Lirlanders, or rebel forces, many believe the Faereginese are ripe to fall. Hazel, the youngest member of the royal family, is happy to leave ruling to her sisters so that she can study her magic. But the Empress has other plans for her granddaughter, dark and dangerous plans to exploit Hazel’s talents and rekindle the Faeregine mystique. Hob, a commoner from the outer realms, has been sent to the city to serve the Faeregines—and to spy on them. One wants to protect the dynasty. The other wants to destroy it. But when Hazel and Hob form an improbable friendship, their bond may save the realm as they know it…or end it for good.
I genuinely love Hob, one of the lead characters. I deeply care for him and really hope that he will somehow end up in a good situation. He is crafty, intelligent, loving, and not to mention has great self-preservation skills. His relationship with Hazel is really special and genuinely believable as it unfolds in an innocent and natural way. In fact, the last few lines of the novel, shared between these characters, is perhaps the best way to button up the first book in the series. I honestly cannot wait for the second installment to see how this partnership develops and where their stories go next.
In fact, all the characters in this novel have distinctive traits and virtues. The three Faeregine triplets themselves could not be more different from one another. Consequently, this creates conflict as each have their own opinions and views about the world, which makes the story that much more similar to competing personalities in real life situations. The author’s effort to ground these characters helps readers share an emotional understanding with them, despite the fantastical elements of the book.
However, the Faeregine sisters, Violet, Isabel, and Hazel, as well as Hob, do feel much older than their ages of twelve and thirteen. Of course these characters have had more experience in their short lives than many have had in longer ones, but they still read as more mature teenagers on the cusp of adulthood. This problem could have been solved by making them seventeen. With this, the novel still would be appropriate for young audiences and still would convey the same ideas and themes.
Despite the age issue, IMPYRIUM on a whole, is a wonderful book. It is the first high fantasy series I have begun that has not been so clinical in the descriptions that it lost the thrill and adventure. It is a story that creates a roller coaster of a ride with unexpected twists and turns that will leave the audience wanting more.