Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)
Holy cow, this book! There was so so so much happening in it. So many plots! Such a rich world! Such interesting characters! I'll break things down plot-by-plot first.
On this fantasy world there are two sentient species. One, the most numerous by far, are humans. The other is a small city-state of what I at first thought were vampires. They live "forever", have red eyes, are otherworldly beautiful, and drink human blood, so what else was I to think? (I almost stopped reading the book then, because I have no interest in vampires, but I'm so glad I stuck with it.) Turns out it's way more complex than that (like so much of this book!). We quickly learn that these not-vampires, the Eboran, are dying. They used to feed of their god's "blood" (sap, their god is a tree), but the tree died, so they were forced to drink human blood instead... but that is killing them. It's a slow, bad death that has killed nearly all of them off.
Plot two: Something is happening to this world, it is attacked on a regular basis. My guess (not a spoiler, just a guess) is that some alien species is trying to terraform the world. (How cool is that? How many stories do you see from the POV of the world being terraformed?) Eight times in the past, "monsters" have arrived and attacked. They do terrible things to the world and the people in it. The only thing that can stop them? The Eboran...
Plot three: There are a few rare women in the world. "Witches". (The characters' name for them, I wouldn't call them that.) These women (it seems to be only women) can pull life force from anything they touch, and use that to create Winnowing fire -- basically green fire that's hotter/stronger than real fire. There's a new religion who is rounding them up to "save the world" from them. They keep the witches in horrible conditions and use them as slave labor.
Through the beginning of the book we follow three different characters, the POV switching from one to the next. Tor, an Eboran. Noon, a witch. Vintage, a woman researcher who is trying to figure out what is attacking their world, the whys and hows of the creatures, so she can figure out how to stop them. Soon enough the three come together, and the story really, really gets good. (For those interested in diversity in characters, Vintage is brown-skinned, in her 40s, and perhaps bisexual or lesbian.)
As wonderful as the world is, the characters are even more amazing. I love the three main characters, but the minor ones are realistic, interesting, complex people as well.
And the relationship! I love me a slow building relationship! Most adult books take me 6-8 hours to read, this one took 12+, and it was only when we were more than 10 hours in that two of the characters finally got together.
I was happy to see this is a trilogy and the second book is out already. I have it on my Kindle, and I started it last night. I just hope it's not too long of a wait for the third book...