Terms of Service reviewed

I spent the past week or so reading a new fantasy novel released under a Creative Commons license. The story of a women's life, Terms of Service by Irina Rempt treats us to lavish worldbuilding, a sophisticated magic system and incredibly complex characters. It's a story about masters and servants, love and loss, ambition, power plays and life-changing mistakes. If you like Brandon Sanderson's books, this one manages to one-up his usual fare, and that's high praise coming from a reader who isn't all that much into fantasy. It's not often that we see a protagonist who has doubts, gets things wrong, does bad stuff to people and isn't always forgiven for it. Terms of Service even avoids the edginess for the sake of it that's so prevalent in modern (genre) fiction — a notable accomplishment.

In the way of less felicitous qualities, not everything is well explained in the story, at least initially. It took me a while to figure out that the guilds of Archan and Anshen are essentially wizards' guilds, and it didn't occur to me that the members of each call each other's god The Nameless until it was explicitly pointed out. Also, most of the time the characters seem remarkably nonplussed about death, even for a quasi-medieval world where presumably life is cheap. Then again, the protagonist lampshades that at some point, so who knows.

Last but not least, I want to say a few words about style. I'm most emphatically not a literary fiction snob, but I do appreciate just the tiniest bit of style in my prose. Sadly, Terms of Service is deficient in that department, and if it grated me I know that will be doubly true for other readers. But give it a chance anyway, you'll find there is a lot more to a book than the words it's written with.