The Realms of the Gods - Tamora Pierce

Goodreads Book Blurb:

During a dire battle against the fearsome Skinners, Daine and her mage teacher Numair are swept into the Divine Realms. Though happy to be alive, they are not where they want to be. They are desperately needed back home, where their old enemy, Ozorne, and his army of strange creatures are waging war against Tortall.

Trapped in the mystical realms Daine discovers her mysterious parentage. And as these secrets of her past are revealed so is the treacherous way back to Tortall. So they embark on an extraordinary journey home, where the fate of all Tortall rests with Daine and her wild magic.

Series / Genres:

My Review:

enjoyable/easy to read:
3/5
2.5 stars rounded up because I’m feeling nostalgic and generous. It certainly doesn’t deserve it.

I’m hiding this whole review under a spoiler tag. It’s impossible to talk honestly about this disappointing finale to the Immortals series without disclosing crucial plot points. So I can’t help you decide whether you should read this book or not, but I can certainly commiserate with you once you have.
You can tell from the first chapter where this narrative is heading and it’s so traumatic it drags down the whole story. Forcing Daine and Numair together was an absolutely terrible idea and there are so many reasons it doesn’t feel right. The first, most obvious reason is the massive age difference. I’ve seen comments online where Pierce has tried to point out that, actually, Numair is only 27 so it’s totally normal that he falls in love with 16-year-old Daine. I’m not trying to be petty here, but I’d like to present some evidence for the court.

Exhibit A:

Numair Salmalin showed the effects of the springs fighting more than Daine or Tkaa. Too many nights with little or no sleep had etched creases around his full, sensitive mouth and at the corners of his dark eyes. For all that he was only thirty, there were one or two white hairs in his crisp black mane of hair.

It doesn’t say “he was not yet thirty” or some such variation thereof, it’s clearly “he was only thirty”. And just to be crystal clear on Daine’s age, please see,

Exhibit B:

It was a pity that, unlike most girls of sixteen, she would not make a charm this Midsummers Day to attract her true love. On the holiday, two days hence, she - and her lanky companion - would be dead. There would be no lovers, no future husband, for Veralidaine Sarrasri

Exhibit C:

“Ma!” squeaked Daine with a laughing outrage.

“How old are you?”

  “Sixteen.” Memory returned in a rush.

Exhibit D:

It didn't sound right. When all was said and done, she was Veralidaine Sarrasri, really. She'd been that for sixteen years. Changing now would be - uncomfortable.

But, I digress. As icky as a 14 year age difference is, especially when the younger partner is a teenager, I honestly probably could have looked past it if the whole relationship hadn’t felt forced. There are three books in the Immortals series leading up to The Realms of the Gods, and not once is there a single sign of the kindling of a romantic relationship. There’s no expressions of interest, no flirting, not even sly side glances. And yes, I hear the people out there saying that Daine’s outburst at the end of Emperor Mage when she thinks Numair is dead is a sign of underlying feelings she hasn’t confronted yet. I can even see you trying to say Numair’s warning to Kaddar to not lead on Daine could be construed as jealousy. Sorry, I’m calling bullshit. There’s never been anything other than a close teacher-student relationship and Numair has played almost a fatherly role in Daine’s life. It’s gross and weird to force them together and it plays no real purpose here; nothing that happened in the plot required them to be together to keep the story moving. I’m going to stop harping on this now but it’s my least favourite part of the Tortall Universe to date.

Putting all of that aside, there’s still a lot to take issue with in The Realms of the Gods. There’s a lot of potential here, Ozorne has mastered Stormwing magic, made allies and spies, and is a truly powerful enemy. He’s attacking Tortall with never before seen immortals and magical beings, seems to be one step ahead of every move they make, and he’s got big plans to take out Daine and Numair. Thankfully, the day he makes his move on them happens to be one of the few where they can be rescued by the gods. Seconds away from death, they’re whisked out of the mortal realm – well Daine is, Numair grabs on for dear life and is taken along for the ride. After so many hints throughout the series, becoming less subtle over time, and in fact, mostly relying on the fact that Daine seems to not be paying attention when people are telling her to her face who her father is, she finally meets him. Weiryn, the northern god of the hunt. And yes, he’s a god, probably not big on the whole ‘father’ gig and not super emotional, but even then there’s certainly not a lot of bonding occurring. He’s pretty snarky with her during their short time together, mostly fixated on the fact that the daughter of the god of hunting doesn’t eat game anymore.

I’m not going to pick apart every page of this book, otherwise, I’d have to drop the rating, but I will say that so much happens in such a short period of time, it feels rushed and unimportant. This feels like it should’ve been split into two books if they had to be kept short – one where they travel through the realm of the gods and one after the dragons bring them back to the mortal realm and they take on Ozorne and his allies. Because it’s all fit into just over 200 pages, it flies by, there’s no time to land important moments, to have any real emotion, or to really describe much of the final battle. Everything is surface, there’s no depth or feeling or connection, and all of the ‘complications’ were easily overcome without any real fear of failure.

So why, then, am I giving this three stars? I know my review makes this sound like it barely deserves one. I’ve chosen to focus on the negative parts here but there are still positive ones, I promise. Daine reuniting with her Ma is one of the few real emotional moments that feel honest, surpassed only by the one when Daine is forced to choose between her mortal and immortal families. Broad Foot and Badger are interesting and surprisingly helpful companions, for gods. The Dragonlands should have been amazing but it was nice to meet a bunch of full-grown dragons for all the experience was anticlimactic. As I said, it likely doesn’t deserve it but I was feeling nostalgic and generous, so three stars it is.

I suppose I’m so disappointed with this Immortals finale, not just because the first three books deserved a better ending, but because it feels like Pierce wasted too much time on an unnecessary relationship and not enough on what would have made this book amazing: details. I want more! A trek through the immortal realm credited as being so dangerous no mortal could make it through shouldn’t be completed in a few days with no casualties or major injuries (that aren’t healed immediately with magic ointment). A war that has been brewing for three books shouldn’t commence, climax, and conclude in one day, even with the help of dragons. A mage so powerful he was able to transition from emperor to Stormwing, master an entirely new brand of magic from scratch, and band together humans and immortals no one else has ever been able to, shouldn’t fall prey to a sixteen-year-old girl and a badger claw.

It hurts to have Daine show up in Wild Magic, become an even better protagonist than Alanna, and then have it all come crashing down for no seemingly good reason. I’d recommend not reading this book but unfortunately, if you’ve read the rest of the series and plan to continue in the Tortall Universe, you probably should. Just read fast and keep moving, try not to linger.

“What kind of force?” Marielle wanted to know,

“The badger god.” replied Onua. “Stormwing friends,” piped Leaf. Jelly nodded.

Marielle raised her eyebrows. “If you say so, little ones,” she said wryly. “Strange friends that we get in wartime.”

Another darkling stretched to put its eyeless head over Jonathans shoulder—it was tucked into the king's belt purse. “Centaurs,” it squeaked to Marielle. “Forty-four.”

“Very true, Inkblot,” Jonathan told Ozornes one-time spy, now his companion and connection to other darklings. “Don't forget Sir Raoul, the Knight Commander of the King's Own. He mustered a hundred-odd ogres, as well as the centaurs. Those who chose to live with our laws are fighting for them.”

The noblewoman laughed. “Do you know, sire, I think that if we live to tell our grandchildren about this war, they will accuse us of making it up.”

If only, Marielle. If only.

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