Book Review: Rize Keer by L.M. Fili
This book review of Rize Keer: Blind In Flames by L.M. Fili is one I have delayed for a bit, mostly because I am a mood reader. But also because this experience taught me that if someone gifts me their book from the U.K., I need to use a VPN to read it on Kindle. The logic right there! Wait, you don’t see it? Yeah. Me neither. My VPN adventures aside, let me tell you that Rize Keer is one of my top reads of 2022 so far.
(Review contains spoilers.)
Summary: Shunned from society for her uncontrollable magic, Rize lives as a mentor to her nieces and nephews. Her only companion is a telepathic Worock wildcat. After a massacre in her home city, Rize travels to the Citadel to learn how to master her powers. In fact, the Great One, the leader of all civilizations, sees her chaotic magic as the opposite of inadequacy. But as Rize trains, a more dangerous truth arises; one that could cause history to repeat itself and shatter peace.
Genre: High Fantasy, Comedy
Themes/potential trigger warnings: none
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author!
- World-building: 1★
- Characters (cast & development): 0.5★
- Plot (pacing, stakes, and execution): 1★
- Themes: 1★
- Prose: 1★
Final rating: 4.5 rounded up to 5/5★
In Rize Keer, the world-building takes place fast. Rize is a mentor, a teacher, and so you literally sit through one of her classes at the beginning. This is an approach some could see as “info dumping,” but it truly isn’t, as you’re living the moment with Rize and her students. There’s a lot to take in. Even as someone who’s read a bunch of fantasy novels, I paused a few times to make sure I understood correctly.
In fact, Rize Keer, despite being such a short book compared to most fantasy novels, contains an entire universe. A magic system. Defined politics and power struggles. By the third chapter, I was hooked. I instantly saw how the information gathered during Rize’s lesson would be useful. But what I enjoyed the most was that even though Rize is a mentor and therefore knows many things, she’s utterly walking with a veil over her face when it comes to the other territories, the Citadel, the armies. This allows the reader to discover the rest of Rize Keer‘s universe with fewer explanations. There’s a good combination of both showing and telling.
Let’s start with Rize and Amethyst, her telepathic wildcat. They’re a pair and the two sides of the same coin. Initially, Rize appears as rather strict and rarely agreeable. She keeps her comments and witty retorts to herself unless she feels they’re justified. On the other hand, Amethyst will always speak his mind and it doesn’t matter who stands in front of him. However, outside of the mansion’s walls and away from her students, Rize turns out to be rather playful with the people she considers her friends. Rize is the type of woman who will give you the impression that she takes nothing too seriously. That she doesn’t have anyone she really cares about, and that’s why I liked her progression in the book.
Although this is only the beginning, Rize already proves that she’s capable of adapting to almost any type of scenario. If it’s to learn and/or survive. She never sits back or stalls, even when Amethyst encourages her to back off a few times. Even the way Amethyst learns that pride will be his Achille’s Heel is nicely executed. It starts from a few jokes to an actual life-or-death situation.
There are other characters in this book that I feel are also worth mentioning. The first one is Rel, the “hooded man” who accompanies the Great One. The author tricked me there. Since Rize meets the Great One early on, I thought he would be a central character, not his advisor. But then, it turns out Rel is the other Great One, which is not a good thing knowing the history of their lands. While Rel likes to joke with Amethyst and flirt with other women, there’s depth to his character. He’s not looking simply at the politics and his predicament as the “other” Great One. He wants answers, even if he has to find them through Rize.
While the secondary characters had their place, Grant’s sudden appearance confused me. I felt like he got plopped there because Rel needed help with training Rize. But he seems important for the sequel, so I would have preferred a “live” introduction.
The plot of Rize Keer is rather simple. The Great One sees potential in Rize while her council thinks she’s unworthy. Rize doesn’t have a sign on her skin to state her elemental affinity. But the Great One decides she should join the Academy since it means she could master all the elements, not just one. However, on the night that precedes Rize’s departure, an inexplicable event ravages her city. Rel takes her to a neighboring territory before reaching the Academy, but he’s unwilling to share his knowledge and his theories with her.
While Rize learns how to fight and the real history outside her city, she’s oblivious to Rel’s findings and plans, as he remains evasive. In this regard, I wished the book would have been slightly longer. Rize Keer builds the foundations of a magnificent universe, and you want to know more. You want Rize to prod more. I would have loved to see them interact more often on important matters. And I would have loved to see their odd friendship blossom, albeit slowly.
Rize Keer may appear as a comedy. Between Rize dumping a storm on the Great One, Rel’s “tea parties” in closets, and Amethyst trying not to crash-land when riding a mystical bird. But it’s worth mentioning, in this book review of Rize Keer, that the author is smart in placing serious themes. Education, the role of children in the eyes of their parents, the lies in history… L.M. Fili has webbed everything in a way that doesn’t feel condescending or overbearing.
In fact, if I had to compare Rize Keer to an all-time classic, it would be Voltaire’s Candide. Comical relief and naïve exploring pave the way to tackle social matters. Being a huge fan of French classics, Rize Keer stroked my brain in the most pleasant of ways. This is a fantasy novel with good old philosophy.
Now, listen. I didn’t know L.M. Fili didn’t write this book in English. When I reached the acknowledgments and I read she translated it from Russian, I was gobsmacked. The prose is flawless; the descriptions, while not too detailed, capture the reader’s attention with their elegance. The author uses metaphors and allegories in such a proficient way that native English authors would probably get impostor syndrome upon reading them. I don’t know if L.M. Fili is a professional translator, but either way, this book is a little gem. In honesty, I think it might not be an easy read for consumers of mainstream fantasy. You need to read between the lines and the dialogues often feel as if you’re witnessing nobles from the 17th century having some verbal sparring.
I hope the next installment comes out soon; this was a wonderful experience.