Gathering of the Four is the first book in A.E. Bennett’s Serrulata Sage and is set in the Realm, a futuristic place where Xanthcraft, a sort of magic, exists. Those who wield Xanthcraft have different skills and abilities that are natural to them. This is a big book, coming in at over 400 pages, and I really wish I’d read it in paperback! I handle big, fantastical books better in paperback, so this is definitely going on my will-be-reread list for sure! ebooks are great, but for big fantasy, it takes me a long time to sink in to the story and I have trouble doing that without a paperback. ANYWAYS, I digress …
“But outside of the Realm, if they follow the calendar of the Ancients, it’s 4385.”
I really appreciated this line, as it gives you a sense of how far into the future the Realm is and how much things have changed. When Leora learns that her stepmother and her father plan to sell her into ‘servantry’, she runs away. She soon meets Roland Shallowbrook and the pair become fast friends.
“Before New Market, I thought—and I know this is so silly but—I thought I was the only one. I knew it wasn’t true, but I’d never seen anyone else with eyes like mine. And then I saw Xanthi in New Market, and now I’ve met you and, well…it’s been very nice.”
We get other characters and POVs as well. I really enjoyed the relationships Bennett develops between the characters and the world-building of the Realm. Each character comes from a very different place and you get to spend time with the characters before their paths and storylines start to collide. One of the romances took me by surprise in the best way, too. BUT I SHAN’T SPOIL! 😉
Each chapter also begins with an excerpt that adds to the worldbuilding and I seriously loved them. You start to get proverbs from the Realm towards the end of the book that were wicked cool.
The Capitol is not an easy building to navigate. Different wings were constructed at very different times throughout the Realm’s history, and it doesn’t take one long to figure out that each new wing was built without a care for what already existed. I do not recommend wandering around alone.
The setting reminded me of The Hunger Games and the Shannara Chronicles in the sense that it feels both new and old. This is only book one and I’m so curious to see where Bennett takes the storyline!