For centuries the Warders’ Circle on the neutral islands of Twaa-Fei has given the countries of the sky a way to avoid war, settling their disputes through formal, magical duels. But the Circle’s ability to maintain peace is fading: the Mertikan Empire is preparing for conquest and the trade nation of Quloo is sinking, stripped of the aerstone that keeps both ships and island a-sky. When upstart Kris Denn tries to win their island a seat in the Warder’s Circle and colonial subject Oda no Michiko discovers that her conquered nation’s past is not what she’s been told, they upset the balance of power. The storm they bring will bind all the peoples of the sky together…or tear them apart.
So there’s the setup for this “season” of 11 novella-length episodes, releasing weekly. Episode 1 — Arrivals is very much a pilot episode. After an action-packed opening, the story settles into introducing the pretty large cast of characters and the world the inhabit.
I found most of what follows pretty dry, and I had a hard time maintaining interest. It reminded me of the Game of Thrones pilot — at least for those of us who hadn’t read the book — so many names and places to learn that it was hard to pay attention to any story. It’s a rich world and most of the characters seem well-developed and complex — I just don’t care about any of it yet.
It is not the most accessible world, with a specialized vocabulary, and political and magic systems that the reader has to dig in to really understand. This isn’t a complaint — it’s just something to know going in. There’s no real pay off for the effort now, but you can assume it’s coming.
But those last couple of pages? Hoo-boy, there’s the hook — I might have had to wait longer than I wanted to just to get to this point, but it was worth the wait. I think that gave me enough motivation to read at least a couple more episodes. Given the strength of the list of authors involved in this one — Michael R. Underwood (the author of this installment), in particular — I’m confident that I’ll be singing the praises of Born to the Blade soon. You might want to jump on board now and enjoy the progress.