Omar’s Review for Eleventh Cycle (Mistland #1) by Kian N. Ardalan
Two takeaways from ‘Eleventh Cycle:’
1) It’s no-holds-barred Grimdark, with all the expectations that come with that
2) You’ll grow to care about most, if not all, of the main POV characters – which ^see above, is probably not always a good thing for your tear ducts.
Book blurb excerpt: It has been a thousand years since the last Seed abandoned their duty. The mists are closing in. Finally, the Morning Bell tolls. A new Seed is born, but is it too late?
The rot eats away at mortals. The Witnesses pray so that they may not turn into one of the forgotten. And the constricting mists infect the lands with fear.
I’ll preface this by saying that I’ve never really been a fan of Grimdark, or horror, or any combination and permutation of these. But I do have respect for it – if only for the emotional reactions that it forces out of you. Eleventh Cycle, while not pulling punches (the content warning comes early), elicits an emotional connection between the trials of the POV characters and the reader.
What made it even more interesting was the drawing from some of the scariest elements of our history – the ‘othering’ of people we see as ignorant tribes and the use of organised religion to help justify the process. Of course, in the case of Minethria, the world in which Eleventh Cycle takes place, the gods and their offspring/court are much more tangible than our own circumstances. The lore that’s introduced in relation to this court of the ‘Elders’ on Mount Morniar is hopefully going to be expanded on in subsequent entries in the series, especially the exploits of the earlier ‘Seeds’ of which this book introduces the Eleventh (?). The worldbuilding in this story is *chef’s kiss.*
The cast of characters and the main POV characters are exceptionally well-realised, to the point where you feel real emotions either towards them or their actions: Nora, the battle-hardened warrior desperate to prove herself; Dalila, the innocent country girl thrown into a strange world; Erefiel, the legendary son of an even more legendary immortal father; Chrona, a son of the Akar with an unusual relationship to the humans; and the Eleventh Seed themselves.
The two standout characters for me were Chrona and Nora. I, for one, found myself interestingly most captured by Chrona’s story as he navigated multiple worlds and his own changing perspective of who he is vs what his history says about him. Nora’s own path was the most infuriating and heartbreaking at the same time, and where the Grimdark elements of the story really shone through in their most violent and gory way. Her journey is a hard read.
The book isn’t a perfect one…there are some grammatical/formatting errors that stand out sometimes, and for me, the intimate/sex scenes took me out a bit in how they were written. However, this is an indie novel and honestly the overall scope and characterisation in the story vastly outweigh those issues.
I wavered between a 5 star rating, as I was thinking about this book and the characters for quite some time after, and a 4 star review due to the grimdark content which I honestly just don’t have a huge appetite for in how I use fantasy to get away. However, Kian Ardalan’s world is so well thought out, and so deep and rich that you have to give due respect to this wonderful indie novel, and the start of the Mistland series.