The Pyramids of London

The Pyramids of London (The Trifold Age Book 1) - Andrea K Höst

[I received a copy of this novel through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

Good ideas in terms of world building, although in general, I found the novel a little confusing.

Lots of concepts introduced here, with references to our world: Prytennia is obviously Britain, the Roman Empire and Egypt speak for themselves, and so it was very easy to picture the setting, geographically speaking. There's still royalty in "Britain": check. Lutèce is Paris: check (shall I admit to knowing quite a few cities' old Roman names thanks to "Asterix"?). Various deities associated to various cults, like Cernunnos or Lakshmi: check. At first, it may look like a mish-mash, but it makes a lot of sense in a context where, many centuries ago, the Gods "Answered" people's prayers and actually descended on the world, or made themselves incarnate in other ways. The Egyptian "gods", for instance, who gave birth to several strains of vampirism, each with its own powers (the Shu control winds, the Thoth-den use their blood to heal people, the Ma'at can tell who's lying...). Or Sulis (who in our world used to be worshipped at Bath), who manifests herself through three women, the Suleviae. For someone who knows a little about mythology, or even knows the very basics and wants to learn more, this book gives a few tracks to follow.

However, I didn't get the same feeling here I got from the blurb. Prytennia's climate seems to be warm (I immediately imagined cities close to the desert, with people wearing "skirts" instead of trousers), but I didn't feel the urgency of being "under attack from the wind itself". The political intrigues from the Swedes, through their representative Gustav, seemed to be more of an afterthought than something that would really affect Prytennia. The "selling oneself to a vampire" part didn't seem that bad: more a contract for a decade or so, without aging, and I guess there are so many worse ways to indenture oneself. I don't know if this came from the plot itself (Arianne and her nieces and nephew investigating to know what happened to the dead parents) or from the narrative, the way it was woven. Maybe I was expecting something else.

I also couldn't push myself to really care for the characters. Arianne's calm take on basically everything dampened the predicament she was in (potentially turning into a vampire against her will—that's not a spoiler, you know about it in the very first chapters). The romantic interests came a little out of nowhere, and I'm not sure if they were exactly important when pitched against the backdrop of "who dunnit" and "there's a secret behind what our parents were working on". When some characters disappeared, I wasn't so invested, because I hadn't gotten to know them more beforehand, and they were more sidenotes for me than people. Mostly I felt that the characters were removed from themselves, dispassionately looking at their own lives from afar, and so in turn I looked at them from afar, too.

Still, I liked the world developed here. Perhaps a bit too much was shoved in the reader's face from the beginning (any book that needs a glossary tends to be of that kind), but some more careful reading on my part allowed me to quickly grab what it was all about. And it's definitely a good thing that a lot of the characters are women, and they do Important Things, and it's completely normal because women in this world get to do Important Things all the time anyway, and it's not only the men's turf. (The Queen is part of a goddess incarnate and gets to mingle with dragons, one of the princesses commands a very special kind of guard/spies, girls get to study engineering and can land apprenticeships in workshops, or even have workshops of their own, without society making them feel "improper"... Etc.)

I may decide to grab the second volume at some point. I don't know yet. I'm hovering around the 2.5 stars mark here, in between some parts I found "OK" and others that made me think "this is a good idea, I like it". (Vampires especially: they aren't emo creatures, they become like that due to a symbiotic relationship with specific strains living in their blood, they have souls, they believe in an Egyptian-like Otherworld where they have to strengthen their ba before being able to carry on.) If the next book can get past the somewhat-confusing approach to this world, and focuses more on the characters in a way that would make me feel involved, then I'll be interested.