NB—I received a digital review copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
This cover is fine, I like the art style, but I think it’s a little generic. It could be for a bunch of fantasy novels, I don’t think it really screams ‘Fairlie’ or even ‘Crosspointe’
They were the best of friends: Ryland, the son of the king, is bound by loyalty. Shaye is both a majicar and a Weverton, both rebellious factions. Fairlie, a fiery metal-smith, is the iron bond that held them all together. Until now.
Crosspointe’s greatest advantage at sea is its ship’s compasses-but the compass makers are dying. Without them, Crosspointe will fall. To save his country and repel the coming Jutras invasion, the king orders Ryland to commit an unforgivable act. And soon Ryland, Shaye, and Fairlie find themselves at war…with each other.
The Turning Tide is fast-paced, character driven and continues with the intricate world-building begun in the previous two books. The book opens with an introduction to a small, well-developed cast of characters who quickly become embroiled in personal and political chaos. I love politics in my fantasy, and this series never disappoints. Fairlie is an amazing character, her relationship with Ryland and Shaye is compelling and nuanced, and so is her personal history and motivations.
From the opening scene with Shaye, her character and his are thrown into sharp contrast, and she continually proves who she is, while also developing over the course of the novel into a version of herself that is truly extraordinary. Her love interest (who I shall leave unnamed for spoiler reasons) is dedicated and respectful, which I appreciated, and there was even a scene that specifically addressed the fact that if she did not return [REDACTED]’s interest, that it would be fine, and everything could continue as normal.
Why isn’t there more of this in fantasy1? Why do so many books act like love or attraction are a switch you can flip on, and if you choose not to then you’re a monster? Fairlie’s relationship does seems to develop a little abruptly, but with the amount of high-stakes action that takes place in The Turning Tide, any drawn-out angst or relationship drama would seem trite in contrast.
Fairlie’s actually a great character for several reasons. She’s kind and compassionate, while never being less than strong. Too many times I’ve read about women who are portrayed as weak simply because they’re not strong in a traditionally masculine way. That’s why I love when I find genuinely strong female characters who are compassionate, nurturing or considerate; without being ‘punished’ for it2. Don’t get me wrong—I love a remorseless lady murderer as much as the next person, but I think it’s really important to have women written with traditionally feminine traits that are still self-assured, confident and effective.
Feminist rant aside, this book is really good. There are more characters included from previous books, including a long-awaited reunion between two characters3 that makes me want to read book four immediately (potentially possible, if I find it second hand somewhere—the series is currently being re-released).
Ryland was probably my favourite character in the book—solidly motivated, likeable for the most part, and one last thing, what was it? Oh yeah, he goes through hell. The book opens on a fairly difficult time for him, and things only get worse. Character development only really happens when characters get put through the wringer, and traumatic things pretty much never stop happening to Ryland. He has some tough decisions to make, and reacts in some admirable and definitely-not-admirable ways—it makes for great reading.
When discussing characters, I can’t skip over Shaye. He’s not always likeable, but he’s always sympathetic. He’s great, and I loved the way he interacted with…everyone, just for different reasons. I hope we learn more about his family, and Ryland’s too for that matter. Both Vaughn and Nicholas need more page time.
The king also becomes a genuine character in this book for the first time in the series4, and I loved the nuance brought to his character, and through that the world of the Crosspointe Chronicles. The world-building and scene descriptions never falter, making The Turning Tide (and the previous two novels) engaging to an extent that you only get with well-written sci fi or fantasy. Which brings me neatly to the next great thing about this book—the religion of Crosspointe gets fleshed out a little more, and I am intrigued. We’ve learnt a little of Bracken and Meris in The Black Ship, but now we got to learn about Chayos (who is fascinating) and her priestesses (likewise).
Religion in novels can at times seem like it’s only included as a way to have PG swearing, but that’s definitely not the case in The Turning Tide. Crosspointe’s religion ties into the magic, political, and environmental systems, and directly influences the plot without ever lessening the agency of the characters. It reminded me of something Anne Bishop would write, and if you haven’t seen my book recommendations , just know that that is high praise. Hurn is the last of the four gods to be explored, and I hope this happens in the next Crosspointe novel.
This book develops the structure and abilities of magisters as well, weaving threads from both The Cipher and The Black Ship into the plot of The Turning Tide, providing an over-arcing storyline that is satisfying, while still leaving plenty to be explored in future novels5. But this definitely isn’t a placeholder book, things happen in this book that will affect Crosspointe’s political and social system, and I’m going to really enjoy seeing how this happens.
I’ll stop rambling because this review is already too long, but if you’ve read the previous Crosspointe books; enjoy fantasy with strong characters with complex, believably written relationships; or just like well-crafted fantasy worlds that get richer with every instalment, you should read The Turning Tide.
1And the world, for that matter
2Usually with threats of sexual assault or physical violence! Isn’t the world disgusting?
3Not a spoiler—there’s a lot of people from previous books that are estranged, missing or presumed dead
4He made a cameo in book one, but The Turning Tide is the first glimpse we get at his relationships with people, the sort of man he is, and the reasons for that
5I couldn’t tell if book four—The Hollow Crown—is the final book in the series or not, but I love the world and with each instalment Diana Pharaoh Francis writes another cast of amazing characters, so I’d say there’s enough fuel for many books to come