A Thread in the Tangle by Sabrina Flynn follows the story of a young woman whose destiny is tied up in the fate of her world. This rich world of history, reincarnation, and long-lived individuals who only die of old age when they lose their will to live, will draw the reader into the political and social struggle. It is epic fantasy set in a universe with gnomes, nymphs and other beings, who resemble human beings. Isiilde is a nymph and the daughter of the Emperor Jaal of Kambe. But in spite of her royal father, a nymph is property, to be bought or sold. Her guardian, Oenghus cares more for her than the Emperor does, and brings her to the Order so that she might be able to have a full life until she comes of age. There she learns magic and grows close to the Archlord Marsais, a seer whom leads the Order. He chooses her as his apprentice. Isillde is a captivating character, inquisitive, and more spirited than the average nymph who dreads and tries to avoid the inevitable day that the Emperor decides to sell her to the highest bidder. Her unusual affinity for fire gets her in trouble with instructors and fellow students alike. Meanwhile her guardian and the Archlord try and figure out how to make sure she gets the best possible life, in light of her circumstances.
“Isiilde blinked, scanning the assembled students in search of the miscreant, but unfortunately, all eyes pointed back to her. “I’m sorry,” she said, hastily. “I didn’t realize I was singing, but I was paying attention.” A wave of murmuring rippled around the amphitheater, including a muffled snort from Zianna, who relished the nymph’s frequent misfortunes. Isiilde ignored the scornful woman and rose fluidly to her feet. “I was drawing a picture of the realms and their interconnecting domains,” she explained, passing her parchment down the line for Yasimina to examine. Numerous, overlapping circles filled the page, each labeled in the nymph’s flowing script. Their realm was called Fyrsta and sat like a bloated spider in the center of a spiraling web.”
Flynn makes good use of relaying history and legend in order to explain the current society and the risks of the larger political climate that Isiilde finds herself in. Themes include the role of the individual, slavery and discrimination, and the role of fate and destiny. One of the biggest surprised to Marsais is that Isiilde circumvents both his visions and the normal disposition of a nymph in order to forge her own path. A Thread in the Tangle has the details to paint a picture of the environment and the characters. It focuses primarily on Isiilde herself with a third person limited viewpoint, with a few conversations between Marsais and Oenghus about her and their responsibility to her. A Thread in the Tangle is the first volume in the Legends of Fystra. I look forward to the Flynn’s next installment in the series, King’s Folly. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes epic fantasy centered on individual characters. I also found the social commentary on the role of the nymphs in their world to be a great aspect of the novel.