Being a diplomat seems like a job that I would be really, really horrible at. I mean, I don't think people appreciate being told "You are acting dumb. Shut up and let me show you how to fix this" which is probably how almost all of my talks would go. Wars would be started. Countries would be torn apart. And I'd be hiding in a corner somewhere, confused as to where I'd gone wrong.
So, when I started reading The Diplomat's Daughter by Azelyn Klein, I assumed that the diplomat's daughter would be calm, careful, and even-tempered. Somebody who doesn't go around causing wars by accident.
So you can imagine my surprise when I met Rhona, the apprentice diplomat, and found her to be much less proper than expected.
Needless to say, I was very happy with this turn of events. The Diplomat's Daughter has many interesting, unexpected points to it. The setting, world-building, characters are all not quite what you'd expect in a fantasy short story series centered around the daughter of a diplomat. And I mean that in the most positive way.
Rhona, unlike many around her, is an advocate for the unification of the four races. While many aren't willing to work towards this goal, she certainly is. However, as an apprenticed diplomat, she has the opportunity to start building up trust between the three races. Who cares if nobody else seems willing to embrace this mindset? She'll make them see how important it is.
After departing on her first diplomatic mission, she finds that diplomacy is a fairly boring process. But one that she's willing to put up with if it means she can help bring about the unity.
And then, suddenly, the diplomatic mission becomes significantly less boring, which, as it turns out, is far, far worse. As events fall into place, peaceful negotiations and Rhona's very way of living are put at risk. Her life becomes tangled with the fate of the four races and her choices could make the difference between peace and war.
40 pages. That's the length of this short story. And yet, in this short amount of space, a massive amount of world-building takes place. I found myself fascinated by the cultures that Klein built.
The setting is not futuristic or modern and there is no magic. Not generally what one thinks of when they picture a fantasy story. Rather than magic, the people have Gifts. Some can shape shift. Some can access, implant, and hide memories. Several Gifts were touched on, but I felt that there were several others that may be revealed to us later in the series (yay!).
Within each race were splinter groups: Traditionalist and progressives. Each race and splinter group had specific cultural differences that gave everyone a very distinct, realistic feel. All of the communication differences and political views wove together to create a good amount of tension.
Now, whenever I see a book that deals with politics, I have concerns. What if it's boring? What if it's just a bunch of people sitting around a table talking about things I don't fully understand because I don't live in this fictional political situation?
That's where Rhona's character comes in. She, thankfully, is not your usual diplomat. She's strong-minded, a bit hasty, and willing to take risks. On a scale of Hannah Heath to excellent diplomat, she falls somewhere in the middle. This keeps the plot moving along without getting boring.
Her friends, the secondary characters Finley and Ellard, work as great foils. They each have very different personalities and political beliefs, which makes their interactions very interesting. It explores how three people of different mindsets can still manage to (somewhat) get along.
While these characters were all very well-defined, I did find points where they didn't live up to their full potential (or seemed slightly flat). Despite what you may think, this was actually not a result of flaws in character development, but rather the consequences of a rushed plot.
The second half of this short story seemed to tumble into place a little bit too quickly. Rhona makes some discovery's about her background that was hidden by her parents and her reaction seems rather off (I'm not going to tell you want this discover is because of spoilers. Just go read the story). As such a stubborn, strong character, I expected her to tackle the problem head on. But, instead, she buckles and makes a somewhat out-of-character decision. While this decision did propel the plot, it felt a bit forced and rushed.
However, this is the first part of a series titled The Last of the Memory Keepers, so clearly there are many other plot points in development. This was a good start, but it had some loose ends and forced points. I'm sure they will be cleared up in the end, but I found them slightly disconcerting.
That being said, I only found them disconcerting because I genuinely enjoyed the characters and thus was thrown off by the rushed pacing. I wanted to be given more time to get to know the world and the people living in it.
Thankfully, this is something that I will most likely get to do in Vol 2. Which I do plan to read, simply for the intriguing world-building and potential-filled characters. This is my first taste of Azelyn Klein's writing and I want more. Also, bonus fact: The Last of the Memory Keepers is indie published. I don't know about you, but I'm always pleased to find an indie published series to follow.
Is this a short story you've read? If so, please leave your thoughts bellow! And if not: Do you plan on reading this series?