Tolerant: Book Review

Tolerant
by C.J. Sparrow


No one was more surprised than I was when I realized about 50 pages into this book, that it was quickly becoming my favorite book of the year. – December 29, 2022

Thank you to Reedsy Discovery for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Expected publication date: April 11, 2023.

The synopsis of this novel on Reedsy Discovery was just enough to persuade me to pick it up and give it a shot. Worst case scenario: it would turn out to be a mediocre fantasy novel. Best case scenario: it would ensnare me into the depths of this world and the characters’ hearts and never let me go. No one was more surprised than I was when I realized about 50 pages into this book, that it was quickly becoming my favorite book of the year.

This novel does not shy away from gruesome scenes, whether they include graphic physical violence, or intolerable treatment of children as slaves. We, the audience, are thrown into a world that is complicit in this cruelness, and a kingdom that weaves lies within half truths to stem the inevitable uprising. 

The pace of this novel, I’d say for 75% of the book, is perfection. We follow our main character Tovey as she tries time and time again to escape her imminent death, oftentimes caused by her own inability to blend into her presumed station as a servant. I loved the anticipation of trying to guess Tovey’s next move, and whether she’d do the right thing or do the Tovey thing, and put herself at even more risk of torture or beheading.

The characters Tovey meets along the way were developed just enough that I cared about their situation in this kingdom, but not enough that I understood all of their motivations or conversations with Tovey. I loved that the reader, for most of the book, had the same understanding and world view of the kingdom as Tovey did. We were fed the same lies and half truths, and worked on that limited knowledge to make the best possible decisions to move forward.

I was both really excited and very surprised when the romance sprung up between Tovey and another character. She’s learning so much of this world from a brand new perspective (with her eyes wide open for the first time), that I just didn’t see this moment coming. While I really enjoyed the innocence of it, some of the consequential scenes that resulted from this relationship left an interesting residue as the story progressed. 

The pacing towards the end of the novel felt a bit rushed. There were moments while reading that I thought, “Ah okay now it’s going to end,” but we had 3 or 4 major twists and plot points to get through within the span of one or two more chapters. I was immersed in the suspenseful ending, and cannot wait to read the next book in this series. I will be anticipating it, and championing this series for a long time to come. The magic system, prophetic lore, and a kingdom poised to enter a revolutionary war, are all elements of a truly exciting world that hinges on one special girl with purple eyes. A girl who grew up beaten into submission until even she believed she was no one.

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