Hi everyone! I hope you’re all doing well and that you had a fun and relaxing weekend! The first post I have lined up for this week is a (hopefully) spoiler-free review of the Never Tilting World duology by Rin Chupeco. This was my first dive into Rin Chupeco’s work and I’m so glad that the Celestial Book Club chose it for our March/April read because, despite having a few shaky moments, overall I really enjoyed it!
Title: The Never Tilting World
Author: Rin Chupeco
Genre: Fantasy, LGBT+, Young Adult
Synopsis: Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon. But seventeen years ago, one sister’s betrayal defied an ancient prophecy and split their world in two. The planet ceased to spin, and a Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in perpetual night, the other scorched by an unrelenting sun.
While one sister rules Aranth—a frozen city surrounded by a storm-wracked sea —her twin inhabits the sand-locked Golden City. Each goddess has raised a daughter, and each keeps her own secrets about her sister’s betrayal.
But when shadowy forces begin to call their daughters, Odessa and Haidee, back to the site of the Breaking, the two young goddesses —along with a powerful healer from Aranth, and a mouthy desert scavenger —set out on separate journeys across treacherous wastelands, desperate to heal their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands.
Title: The Ever Cruel Kingdom
Author: Rin Chupeco
Genre: Fantasy, LGBT+, Young Adult
Synopsis (Spoilers for book 1 ahead): After a treacherous journey and a life-shattering meeting with a twin neither knew they had, Haidee and Odessa expected to emerge from the Great Abyss to a world set right. But though the planet is turning once again, the creatures of the abyss will not rest until they have tasted another goddess’s sacrifice.
To break the cycle, Haidee and Odessa need answers that lie beyond the seven gates of the underworld, within the Cruel Kingdom itself. The shadows of the underworld may hunger to tear them apart, but these two sisters are determined to heal their world—together.
As I mentioned, this was my first foray into Rin Chupeco’s writing, and I was so excited to dive into this duology (though it took me a stupidly long time to finally bite the bullet and read book one) because it has one of my absolute favourite dynamics in it – princess/bodyguard (though in this case it’s more like goddess/bodyguard). The Never Tilting World follows four main perspectives – Haidee, a goddess who lives in the desert-like world of the Golden City; Odessa, her twin who lives on the other side of the world in the dark and rainy Aranth; Arjun, a member of one of the clans who were left to fend for themselves after being denied entry into the Golden City; and Lan, a Catseye healer who is charged with caring for Odessa – who all have to team together to put an end to the Breaking that is tearing their world apart.
First of all, I absolutely loved the world-building that Rin Chupeco has created. On the one half of the planet is a city, plunged in constant darkness and filled with treacherous seas and dark monsters called the galas, and on the other a desert filled with nomad scavengers, a domed city and mysterious undead wraiths who haunt the sands. As we go on the adventure with these characters we see even more of the world including the people that inhabit it, the terrible damage that has been done to it, and some adorable creatures (I would die for the dolugongs!). Though I wish we had spent a bit more time in Aranth through the series, I did feel completely sucked into the whole world and could picture it all so vividly in my head!
The characters are definitely one of the highlights of the book for me, and strangely enough I preferred the straight couple to the sapphic one! Because Haidee and Arjun and Lan and Odessa are on seperate journeys in the first book, it made it very easy to see these characters as their own people and you could tell whose point of view you were reading from straight away, but in the second book, when they’re all together for the most part of it, their voices all seemed to gel into one amorphous blob and I kept having to flip back to the chapter title to see who was supposed to be narrating. Other than that, I loved Arjun and Haidee’s dynamic so much. Arjun has had a hatred for the goddesses that are cooped up in their safe little bubble of a city, and so they are very begrudgingly working together for a common goal. This kinda leads into my love for the tropes in this book, but seeing their dynamic grow and change to the point where one of them gets injured and the other goes into a panic and realises…wait…I love them, was honestly done so so well. Like, yes please, give me that dynamic over and over again, I will never grow sick of it! Odessa and Lan have a very interesting relationship too as Lan has to constantly heal Odessa due to a dark mass forming and growing in her chest. We see Lan dealing with the PTSD of losing her friends and lover to a galla attack all the while trying to prove to herself that she can do better this time around, while Odessa is learning to be free from the tower she has been cooped up in all her life and the responsibility that brings. I did enjoy their dynamic better in the first book, but I often felt that Lan’s personality was built around her love and duty to Odessa and she didn’t have all that much to her other than that. I don’t want to mention any spoilers, but we get some new characters introduced in book two and I loved them all so much, especially seeing how their dynamics all interacted!
Now for arguably my favourite part of the duology – the tropes. I’ve already mentioned how much I love the princess/bodyguard trope and the whole Character A gets injured and Character B panics and realises they love them trope, but this duology encapsulated so many more and all of them were done so so well! A couple examples of other ones that I really enjoyed (so as not to spoil them all so you can experience them fully in your reading of the books) are the Character A is cocky and outwardly flirtatious and Character B is shy and blushes furiously when they appear in rumpled clothes in front of the other characters trope (even better that Character A is a woman and Character B is a man), and the everyone teams up at the end of the book to fight a common even, even those that you weren’t expecting to show up trope – aka the trope that never fails to make me cry!
The duology definitely does have some faults – namely that it is stretched out for far too long (I never want to read a book that is solely full of travelling ever again!) and could easily have been one larger standalone – though it is definitely a duology that I recommend checking out if you have the time!