I picked up A World through Sapphire Eyes shortly after I met Marie Mackay through social media and discovering our mutual love of books, writing, and fantasy. It was at the beginning of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for you other writers out there), and as we shared updates about our works in progress, she said she had already published her debut novel and was already working on the sequel. So I went looking, downloaded A World through Sapphire Eyes through Kindle, and away I went.
In this YA Fantasy novel set in a world of elemental magic and intrigue sat upon the brink of war, the reader meets Vason who is drawn to the chosen one, the Iliate, when it’s the last place he wants to be. Robin is thrust into an unfamiliar world where everyone has expectations and plans for her and her powers, but Vason might be the only one who cares for who she is, and not what she is. Characters wrestle with their own convictions, Robin with her role in the world as Iliate, and Vason with his responsibility as Ruthon, all while singularly focused on finding his sister who has been lost within the Knoxen Slave Network.
A World through Sapphire Eyes holds its characters first and foremost, and they are displayed as personal and emotionally vibrant. Mackay does a wonderful job of creating a story where the reader becomes emotionally invested in the journeys of the point of view characters. As we see their convictions, we learn more about them and why they are the way they are. Similarly to how elements of the world are introduced, we are often given the “what” before we are given the “why” regarding characters. Interactions between characters are charged, with clear emotions and tensions as strong personalities collide. Subtlety is not a strong suit for many of the characters, which allows the reader to clearly understand where the boundaries and lines for each character lie. While they each struggle with their own journey within a world fraught with political strife and contention, the threat of an impending conflict only serves to add to the tenison as characters are forced to choose between their own convictions and their own priorities.
Mackay has a well-developed and complex system of elemental magic within her world, and introduces it to the reader in a remarkable way. She uses epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter to introduce details of her world and the magic system, specifically regarding aspects of magic that are put on display in that chapter or section of the novel. This allows the reader to receive information as it becomes relevant, instead of subjecting them to a massive lore dump that would otherwise be out of place in a book such as this. These epigraphs clarify how certain magics work, their limitations, how it interacts with other magic, how it can be used, essentially giving the reader insights into the rules of magic within A World through Sapphire Eyes. The application of magic within the book is a great example of how magic changes a world. Magic doesn’t just add to the world it exists in. It shifts, changes, and influences all aspects of that world both socially and culturally, and the author fully embraces that. We also see a dynamic magic system that changes and not only affects the world, but is affected by the world.
The pacing of the novel is interesting, and would be the one aspect I would highlight for potential readers to be aware of. The reader is thrust into the action from the very beginning, much like Robin is. The world, the characters, and the magic within the world are all unfamiliar, and as Robin has to learn quickly, so too does the reader. I never felt lost, or that I had to reread parts of the novel, but there were moments early on when I wished I had more backstory prior to the events of the first act. While this is certainly a reflection of my personal taste, I prefer having a slower start to a story to allow me to get to know the characters and the world a bit beforehand. As A World through Sapphire Eyes brings the reader right into the action, we are pushed to understand the story and become invested in it, and subsequently have less time to meet the characters and become invested in them. It does pay off, as I found myself becoming more and more invested in the characters and the story as it progressed and the more I learned about the players. This is part of the style of the YA genre, where there is not the same opportunity to ease into the characters and the story as with epic fantasy, and while in the beginning I found myself somewhat removed from the unfamiliar world, it quickly become more familiar as I found myself invested in both the events and the characters within.
Marie Mackay has crafted a broad, complex, and well-thought out world whose full extent I imagine is only hinted at in A World through Sapphire Eyes. Each chapter expands the look into the world and the characters, and draws the reader in with each one. The themes of fantasy are strong and the ties to the world are excellent, made even more enjoyable with a few subtle references to other systems of elemental magic, such as Avatar, for the keen-eyed readers. I thoroughly enjoyed reading A World through Sapphire Eyes, and cannot wait for more from the author.
A World through Sapphire Eyes (Tranquility’s Denouement Book 1) is written by Marie Mackay, and her work can be found through her website: www.mariemackay.com
Want to pick up a copy of A World through Sapphire Eyes for yourself or someone you know? Purchase a copy through the link below, and you will help support the Writer in White with your purchase.