This was a really interesting story, with its two main arcs woven together well.
First up, we have the tournament itself: an annual event that pits 4 “gladiators” against each other, very much in a “winner takes all format”, as the loser has their entire bloodline wiped out.
And then we have Hamelin’s past catching up with it. Many, many years ago, an unnamed event caused Hamelin’s founders to remove themselves from their world and set up in the valley they now call home. But they can’t remain apart forever, and the outside world is beginning to creep in.
Firmly in the middle of these is Neven, who not only has to contend with fighting in the Tournament, but also content with the flying beasts that seem to have targetted him.
I did enjoy the story and the characters for the most part. The purpose of the tournament is definitely unique, and I’m very curious to learn more about Hamelin’s past, especially as despite the profound impact it has had on how the town runs, and despite histories being kept as far back as the town has existed, no one seems to have a clue that there is a world outside the valley - almost everyone is bizarrely content to continue just as they always have.
I did find it a bit of a struggle to connect with any of the characters though, and some areas were a bit too bogged down in details. There’s so much going on in the book! A run through by an editor will easily fix those issues though, and they don’t detract from the overall story too much.
When it’s all said and done though, this is definitely worth a read for anyone who enjoys their fantasy with an action-packed, dystopian edge.