Brightrights is the first book in the “Revisions to the Truth” series by author J. Kyle McNeal. He’s able to lay the groundwork for an interesting universe that will have you looking forward to the next book.
This review contains spoilers for Brightrights by J. Kyle McNeal. Trigger warning for mention of rape. Proceed with caution!
I have read a lot of fantasy books and I think that has led to me having high standards when it comes to what makes a good fantasy story. Birthrights, McNeal’s debut novel, has what it takes to create an interesting fantasy world. But some readers might sense pacing problems during the start of the story. The cover is gorgeous, though! And there are also drawings inside.
The characters are well developed so that made me continue with Birthrights which is more than 500 pages. The treatment of characters made me remember the A Song of Ice and Fire series. Try not to get attached to them, if you know what I mean.
There are multiple POVs in the story. This could stop readers from completely feeling invested in the characters as you don’t stick with them from page to page, but I found the POV shifts enjoyable. It takes a talented author to correctly write different POVs, and McNeal does a good job in Birthrights.
Whym and Quint are the main characters and we journey with them as they progress from being very young to growing into young adults. The book also deals with betrayal and has a lot of deaths. Even the bad guys have dimensions and that works as a plus for the story as poorly-written villains do end up destroying a book’s appeal. The author talks a lot about what a person believes to be true and how it affects their actions. Everyone has varying notions about religion and as they say, “You are what you believe in.”
One thing that I didn’t enjoy, and I can see other readers feeling the same way, is the depiction of rape. Numerous people go through it in real life but I do feel that it is still something that some readers aren’t into, especially when female characters are the focus. Is there literally no other way for a woman to become badass unless she is raped? And yes, for me that does come across as weak writing. We have read this trope countless times. Think of something else, fellow authors!
Here’s the official synopsis:
Set in a land where magic has faded into the stuff of legend, and a corrupt council dominates the realm, Birthrights is a story that grapples with the concept of the truth – following two young men who are navigating its shifting sands in a world on the brink of civil war.
The son of a street sweeper and last in line of a disgraced family, Whym has grown up in the RatsNest slum of the capital. In the hopes of escaping his father’s fate, he accepts an apprenticeship to be a seeker – something akin to a modern-day bounty hunter. Soon, he finds himself entangled in a web of treachery and set forth on a perilous journey across the Lost Land to locate a creature of myth and magic – a journey that will not only transform Whym, but shape the future of the realm.
Meanwhile, Quint – the privileged son of a powerful religious leader who has been groomed to inherit his father’s role – abandons his faith to join the fight against a corrupt council. As the adviser to a remote tribe in the Fringe, Quint must find within himself the wisdom and fortitude to save the people from the invading army – and their own leaders.
Told in alternating perspectives against a backdrop of heightening civil unrest, Birthrights tracks Whym and Quint as they are forced to distil what they believe, and decide on whose side they will stand in the coming conflict. The first installment in McNeal’s four-part Revisions to the Truth series, Birthrights is all at once a heart-pounding page-turner and a thoughtful, timely meditation on the unwieldy nature of the truth.
With three more books yet to come I am looking forward to what McNeal offers next and to see if his writing style evolves. If you’ve been looking for a new fantasy series that doesn’t shy away from mature themes of betrayal, politics, heartbreak, and more, then Birthrights (from Elevate Publishing) is for you.
Have you read Birthrights by J. Kyle McNeal yet? What did you think? Let us know.
Note: I was provided an ARC of Birthrights by Smith Publicity, Inc. The opinions are my own.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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