By the end of the opening page, I know the eye colour of two people. “Cobalt” and “Steel blue”. If that doesn’t sum up the book for you, I don’t know what does.
This is the debut release from author Amy DuBoff, and although its clearly had the professional editing treatment, is it worth reading? Let me frame my view for you: I was looking for a Star Wars and Warhammer Rogue Trader style book, as I was considering writing my own. I wanted fantasy in space. Straight up. Give me a spaceship, a blaster pistol, and magic. I don’t even want the magic covered up with technical mumbo jumbo. I want, honest to god magic. In space.
Our lead character is Cris Sietinen, or “ol’ cobalt eye guy”. I’ll call him Cris though, because maybe there is a legitimate plot reason that we needed to know the colour of his eyes in the second paragraph of the book.
Cris is heir to the throne of the most powerful family in the galaxy. His family make navigation systems that allow ships to make hyperspace jumps. A lucrative business. He who controls the navigation waypoints controls the universe, or something like that.
As any young chap that has literally everything he wants, Cris is feeling a bit cooped up, and wants to go travelling – something any university graduate understands #CheckYourPrivellege – before he cracks on with the difficult business of “being so rich and powerful he literally doesn’t need to do anything”. As he finishes up his daily sparring with one of the best swordsmen in the galaxy, he sneaks away from his home planet, and thanks to his raw, unadulterated, natural aptitude and intelligence, manages to earn a seat on a trading barge as the navigation officer.
He joins an army (The TSS) that grants him protection from his noble family and the priesthood, both of which want him for a variety of obscure reasons.
He undergoes a test to find out the extent of his psychic powers, which is as close to plagiarism of Star Wars’ Luke using the Force to sense his training droid with the visor down in Episode IV, as I’ve ever seen. He’s the most naturally gifted user they’ve ever met. He meets some roommates, he meets a fellow High Dynasty agent called Kate, that is super hot and they date. Not much else happens until it’s revealed that Cris was hiding his true identity from Kate for a few years. Queue the least realistic “almost breakup” scene I’ve ever read, and it turns out everything is fine after three days apart.
Skip to twenty years later, and they’re both Primus Agents, they’re married, and they have a son named Will.
I thought that skipping twenty years was an interesting choice, but hopefully it will give the author a mental shift away from YA. I also thought that the entire story was going to shift the paradigm and relegate Cris and Kate to side characters, and instead focus on Will from here on out. You see, Cris and Kate are both 9th generation telepaths, and it’s well known that 10th generation telepaths are the strongest. This kid, Will, is a beast, basically, surpassing even the best agent before him (his dad, Cris), so why not protganise him?
Now, I know what you really want to know about Will. You don’t care about his stance on the Dynasties. You don’t care about how the Priesthood is chasing him down and trying to make him bend the knee. You don’t even care about what the TSS (Tararian Selective Service – the telepathic army agents that Cris and Kate ran off to) are trying to subtly manipulate him into doing for them. No. You care about his eye colour. Amy Duboff has you covered once more on the first page we meet him – Cerulean. Excellent choice, Amy.
Spoiler; by the end of the book they’re glowing with teal…
However, before Will can become the main character, he gets kidnapped by shadowy attackers. We’re told it’s the Bakzen – super secret aliens we know nothing about despite it being really weird that the TSS’ top agent knows nothing about them.
Consider everything up to this point the prologue, because now the story can actually get started!
We’ve got all the elements we need: high noble families, most powerful of their generation characters, shadowy religious zealots, private armies, magic, deceit, and a reason to charge headlong into it all on a suicide mission! Oh, and Cobalt eyes. Don’t forget those.
And here ends my spoilers. Want to know what happens next? Buy the book! I went with the audiobook from Audible, but I’m sure it’s available elsewhere.
Should you read this book?
In all honesty, I just like nitpicking and being far too harsh. That’s my thing. I generate humour by pointing out flaws. If you think this review is bad, you should hear me looking at a mirror!
The book was competently written, but it was standard YA fare. Yes, I mean that negatively. If you enjoy YA and you want some space fantasy, then you could do a lot worse than Architects of Destiny. It kept me interested, but didn’t leave me gasping for air, unable to download the next book in the series fast enough.
I was interested in the overarching premise. I had gone into it wanting magic in space. But certain things just didn’t ring true for me. For example, Cris is denied almost all information regarding the Bakzen, even after he’s volunteered for a suicide mission. Whatever the in-story reason for this was, it came across as weird, which is a shame, because at that point in the story, I wanted that exposition dump. Amy could have just hit me with a solid two pages of Bakzen lore, and I’d have been nodding along at all the good points she was making, I’m sure.
A plot point at the start of the book is the priesthood send an assassin to kill Cris as he’s making his way to the TSS. But by the end of the book, we learn that the Priesthood KNOW that Cris (at that point) is the only person that can save the universe by sireing a 10th generation psychic kid. When it’s confronted, it gets hand waved away, but incredibly poorly. The director of the TSS literally just says “Yes, I disagreed with their methods, and they’ve realised it was a bad choice”…. Like… at least fucking try, Amy. Christ. A rogue subsection of the Priesthood that was since eliminated. There you go, straight from the top of my head, instantly makes significantly more sense.
Also, dialogue is not Amy’s strong point. Which is fine. It’s a debut novel, and most of the story is in Cris’ head, so we get his personality regardless. Just don’t hold your breath for witty reparté and delightful conversation. Why is it bad? That is very hard to put into words. Saying things like “It seems forced” and “The character wouldn’t really say that” are awfully vague. It’s not bad, that’s too harsh, but it’s definitely not good. Actually, yeah, it’s just bad.
If you want YA space magic, there are better options than Architects of Destiny. I mean, for starters, she’s competing with the entirety of the Star Wars expanded universe (not all terrible, surprisingly. Some good stuff in there!). And now, she’s also competing with herself, as she’s started a new space opera series called Uprise Saga. I see no reason to join Amy in the growing pains of a first book when you can jump into her later work. All of the issues I had with Architects of Destiny were teething problems, and I like to imagine that those problems were well and truly gone by the time she was writing her eighth book.
BUT! With all of that said, once you get past the spoiler parts of my review, I really did feel the story picked up. All of the issues were still there, but once the Bakzan started to be fleshed out, I have to admit, I got more interested in the book. A rocky start, hindered by poor dialogue and unbelievable characters, does become a book that I’m not about having read. Just hang in there past the teenage rebellion and the “training school” section of the book, because none of it’s done particularly well. Adult Cris is better than teenage Cris. So, do I recommend it? Well, I’m torn…
I mean, if you’re okay with everything being a coincidence and lucky. Any sticky situations? Not to worry, they get lucky. Like I said, it’s standard YA fare. Take that for what you will!
Rating: 2/5 (25%)
Favourite Character: Myself for finishing the book
Favourite Quote: “Cobalt eyes”.