The Year of Our War – Steph Swainston

The Year of Our War is a very well-written first book for a fantasy series. Set in the Fourlands, a select group of specialists have been granted immortality as long as they are the best in their field. Comet Jant Shira is an unlikely choice for hero in this set, a drug addict who shirks his responsibilities in order to take his “cat”.

I love how Swainston has written the heroes as deeply flawed individuals, each with a completely different backstory and each struggling to manage their own immortality whilst most of the world has a much shorter lifespan. They are to work together however as their world is invaded by (giant) insects.

The collection of different races is also interesting, although from a biology standpoint it is incredible that only one race within a species who can all mate with each other would have wings. This detail, combined with the angelic-style wings (having both wings and arms) made it difficult for me to lose myself in this as an alternate world.

The scientific oddity is even more surprising given Swainston is giving up her job as an author to become a chemistry teacher; in the UK there are few “chemistry” as opposed to “science” teachers, so a good knowledge of how wings evolve in mammal-like species would seem to be important. It will be a shame to lose an author who writes such compelling stories and characters, hopefully she will write more in the future.

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