With a king who doesn’t want to face the facts, the second son of Xanthos, Dion, looks to the seas to better his home. Meanwhile, in the grand city of Phalesia, the daughter of the First Consul wishes people would leave the Eldren alone. With one city being more concerned with their peaceful neighbors than the infiltrators from across the seas, the other is blissfully unaware of the potential threats that may come their way. Now, seeking help, Dion and Chloe enlist the help of the shapeshifters, the Eldren, who live in the wilds by Phalesia… But will these powerful people help them, at the risk of becoming wild?
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Right away, we’re introduced to Phalesia which is under siege by a powerful storm – Unlike anything they’ve experienced before. Whilst the people of Phalesia pull together to try and save as many people as possible, they’re seriously outclassed by the weather. Viewing this as a bad omen by the gods, the Phalesian people are concerned about what they did to anger them. Chloe turns to enlist the aid from her friend Zachary, who is one of the Eldren who live in the wilds near Phalesia.
In the aftermath of the storm, a large warship comes to dock in Phalesia. Led by a rude captain, the ship is filled with slaves, all of whom must row the huge vehicle. The ship takes shelter in Phalesia to make repairs, whilst the captain learns what he can about the city – And the First Consul tries to learn about the land of Ilea and the tyrannical king who rules it. Kargan, the captain of the warship, cares not for customs which don’t match his own – And it shows.
Meanwhile, the city of Xanthos is looking to get trade with Phalesia set back up. When the second son of the king of Xanthos, Dion, travels to the city of Phalesia, he realises the only way for trade is blocked. Knowing that the Eldren were half-trusted and half-not in Phalesia, Dion looks to the First Consul to clear the trade route – asking to enlist the help of an Eldren. On his journey into Phalesia, Dion spots the warship and knows that something is happening – and the only way for his people to be safe is to get a better navy.
Golden Age depicts a somewhat ignorant world in a way which makes sense; though some people have seen that war and danger is on the way, many normal people don’t see it. True to humanity, it only takes some convincing for others to understand there’s a problem. Of course, who’s going to believe the second son of the king of Xanthos, when he isn’t even a warrior? Who will believe that the powerful Eldren are not a threat, if not Chloe, the daughter of the First Consul of Phalesia?
The land is beautifully described, with each city feeling completely unique. In terms of settings, Phalesia is bright, vibrant and colourful – Matching the trades that the city gets. Meanwhile, the much more grey Xanthos is described as a city for warriors – So we get the idea of a strong but fair people, but we get this wonderful contrast with Dion, who wants to make his city stronger by showing them that swords aren’t everything. It’s a compelling read, as I’m sure we’ve all had that want to say “hey, things are good, but they can be better!”
Our characters, Dion and Chloe, are willing to work with the powerful shapeshifting Eldren, even if the rest of the world will view them as threat. Furthermore, they have both seen the signs of danger from another nation, who has started to eye up their land. With Xanthos and Phalesia as trading partners and generally in good standing, to see someone from the Ilean lands come over and not care for their customs, it’s a bad sign. With huge, powerful warships, Dion recognises that it’s of importance that they learn more about the Ilean people, which makes the characters so much more open to exploration.
Along with the two main characters there, we have Kargan, who is this cruel leader of a warship. He’s calm, he’s calculating – We want to hate him – But I certainly do not hate how he’s presented. He feels like a threat, but he doesn’t feel like he’s a threat for the sake of being a threat.
Personally, I’ve been going through page after page of Golden Age like there’s no tomorrow. It’s certainly made my bus journeys to and from work a lot more interesting; with something I can genuinely look forward to getting through. The story is well paced throughout, with likable characters and even characters you are able to dislike from the offset, but still find entertaining. It’s not very often you can find a character you’re told to dislike – and you agree – but not because of the writing. If I were being honest, I’d say the author did an excellent job in setting a colourful, vibrant world, with intriguing characters. The politics involved aren’t too overbearing, even whilst the story starts primarily about “what would our leaders do?” If anything, this may be a story where the politics enhances the experience – and that’s an amazing thing to be able to say.
If you’ve got a few moments, go read it. Genuinely, I’ve not had as much fun reading a novel in quite some time – And trust me, I’ve been looking for a good book for quite some time. I hope to get through some more of The Shifting Tides in the coming months.
Now we go to you – What do you make of Golden Age? Have you read these books, or is this the first time you’ve heard of them? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter.