Reviewing: State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury

Holy hell this book is intense. Addictively written State of Sorrow is a fantastic opener to a series centred around Sorrow, born the day her mother died and raised in a nation forced into mourning for the brother she never met. As her father loses his mind to grief and the nation of Rhannon begins to fall apart, Sorrow prepares reluctantly to depose her father and take over as ruler when an unexpected gift from the neighbouring nation of Rhylla changes everything.

This book is wonderful, Salisbury has such a beautiful, visual writing style and I absolutely loved the characters she used to populate this world. It is a story of courts, secrets and what it means to rule but it is so much more than that. Dealing with grief, neglect and addiction alongside more fantastical elements like Rhyllan ‘abilities’, State of Sorrow was a book I devoured in every spare moment until it was complete. Every time you think you know whats going on, who holds which cards in this game of power and secrets, Salisbury pulls the rug from beneath your feet and throws the unexpected at you. I genuinely felt for Sorrow, who is a very young woman given a great deal of responsibility and expected to rule a country she has only ever known as dark, lifeless and full of violently enforced grief. With those who surround her determined on most cases to use her as a pawn to their own personal advantage, Sorrow must decide who to trust and what to believe and you see so much character growth between the beginning and end of the book that she’s barely the same woman.

Despite her travels around and beyond the nation she calls home, Sorrow’s world is incredibly small. Raised in a castle apart from the world, unsure of what she can say and to whom, under constant guard for her own safety – or so they tell her – the novel has an almost claustrophobic smallness through Sorrow’s eyes. She is, after all, just a girl discovering colour and dancing for the first time in a world where both were so long forbidden, but she is forced to be so much more against seemingly impossible odds.

This book is very politically-based, and that might not be for everyone. A lot of it focuses on Sorrow’s campaign to become ruler, for although the only people able to run for rulership are those of the Ventaxis family, they still technically have to run for it for the sake of publicly looking like a democracy. Now I love a bit of courtly intrigue, but the ins and outs of political campaigning aren’t exactly my cup of tea. That said, Salisbury manages to get across all the important parts of it while also making it exciting and tense to read. I had to know what happened next, I felt triumphant every time I saw something coming and completely floored when I didn’t, and her campaign manager was by far one of my favourite characters. There was just enough humour in there to break up the tension, just enough that you could believe an eighteen year old young woman was doing all of this. Yes it was terrifying and hard and more than she could ever be expected to do, and yes she could still laugh with what few friends she had because life does not need to be lived in extremes of joy and misery, it can keep going somewhere in the middle too.

The romance sub plot kind of…wasn’t a romance plot? It was about two people whose relationship was built on a mutual need for comfort and pleasure in a country that had outlawed both and once that country changed, so did the relationship between them which made total sense. Sorrow learning to rely on herself and her own decisions rather than relying solely on others was seen well through the lens of this relationship, especially when the voice in her mind went from sounding like Former lover Rasmus to sounding like herself. When cut off from the sources of comfort she used to have, Sorrow is forced to find strength and support within herself.

We as readers learn about the world in this novel at much the same speed as Sorrow, who was raised in a nation isolated from its surroundings. So aside from the sort of compulsory world building set up information that comes with the beginning of a series, I felt like things were revealed at just the right speed for me to remember place names, people etc without getting lost in a giant mass of information. Also the names are amazing, Ventaxis is a fantastic surname. Just say it out loud, it’s so cool. On top of that by the end of the novel I kind of forgot that Sorrow isn’t meant to be a name. Of course it’s a name, a kick ass name at that.

Overall I cannot praise this book enough I genuinely enjoyed reading it and I couldn’t put it down and then I berated myself for this because I still need to know what happens next and the next book isn’t out yet. If you’re a fan of courts, secret plots, political subterfuge and characters you want to either protect from all bad things or punch repeatedly in the face, this is a book for you!

Overall Rating: 📖📖📖📖📖 5 books out of 5

3 comments

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