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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
The Cavalier by Israh Azizi is a war fantasy epic and the first book in the new Heroes of the Empire series. The novel is narrated from multiple point of view characters with the main characters being an orphan turned warrior named Velemir and a princess of Karalik named Natassa, each on opposing sides. Velemir has been trained since early childhood at an academy, his education and training directed by the notorious combatant Lord Prolus who Velemir defers to as a father-like figure in his life. As a young man now, Velemir is sent on a mission against the Empire they are at war with and begins having recurring dreams. As the daughter of the bloodthirsty Emperor Malus, Princess Natassa is, like everyone else in the empire, subservient to her father. He has a husband lined up for her who is equally foul, but she knows too much about the prince, her father, and the danger their empire faces to accept this with the unquestioning loyalty demanded of her. Where her loyalty lies is with her people and her course of action is determined by this.
The Cavalier by Israh Azizi is a monster of a book and takes some time to unpack. It is an ambitious undertaking as the start of a series even by fantasy standards and, for the most part, Israh Azizi did well in keeping all the plates spinning. I like the perspective a reader is given with the narrative coming from opposing sides. Velemir is the primary protagonist and we spend a large amount of time in his camp, which I found to be a plus given that his ride-or-die crew adds to his likeability and authenticity of character. However, his arc is slower to build than Natassa's and, ultimately, getting to know her and her situation sooner had me leaning toward her plight and made her the most intriguing of the two. Having both Velemir and Natassa struggle with varied degrees of father issues makes this book a psychologist's dream fantasy and both manage in their own ways. Velemir is pretty dutiful and Natassa has been playing the long game to get far away from Malus' grip. Their coming of age in a war does wonders for providing options. The book ends on a cliffhanger and, no, an epilogue doesn't make that more palatable. Overall, though, this is a promising series and one I'd keep an eye on.