Irenicon – The Wave Trilogy #1 – Aidan Harte
The river Irenicon is a feat of ancient Concordian engineering. Blasted through the middle of Rasenna in 1347, using Wave technology, it divided the only city strong enough to defeat the Concordian Empire. But no one could have predicted the river would become sentient—and hostile.
Sofia Scaligeri, the soon-to-be Contessa of Rasenna, has inherited a city tearing itself apart from the inside. And try as she might, she can see no way of stopping the culture of vendetta that has the city in its grasp. Until a Concordian engineer arrives to build a bridge over the Irenicon, clarifying everything: the feuding factions of Rasenna can either continue to fight each other or they can unite against their shared enemy.
And they will surely need to stand together—for Concord is about to unleash the Wave again.
Irenicon is a book that had to grow no me. Not necessarily due to the story, but more because of the structure in the very beginning of the book. The first few chapters confused me immensely. I didn’t understand what was going on or what it was supposed to introduce me to.
More and more, as the story unfolded and the world building got more extensive, the story grew on me. A quarter in I was hooked.
It has been said about this book before, it is even stated on the cover, but the world building is absolutely fantastic. The culture Harte has created here is stunning and very special. It represents an old alternate Italy, with Italian sounding names and the Mediterranean climate. Rasenna, the stage for the most part of this story, is special in its own peculiar ways. The most prominent thing is the artificially made river who destroyed part of the city years before. The river was sent as a Wave by the engineers of Concord, as a way to conquer them. The fact that the river is artificial isn’t the most special thing about it though, it is sentient. Or rather, it contains sentient beings, that the people call buio’s. Sometimes these beings escape the river and roam the streets, drowning everyone they encounter. It seems only one woman, a nun, is able to lead them back to the river.
Water and these creatures play an important role throughout the book. When we are introduced to the mysterious ‘Water style’ it really challenges you to keep an open mind and think differently about something as basic as water.
The river in itself is important, but what it left in its wake is even more so. The river has divided Rasenna in two sides, literally and figuratively speaking. Because when the river destroyed part of the city, their leader perished as well. With his daughter, Sofia, being too young to take over his position, prominent families from both sides compete for it. Both sides clash frequently, but there is elegance in their fighting, because they fight with flags. Flags, you say? Yes! This got me very confused at first, because this fact is kind of thrown at you in the very beginning and I just didn’t get it at first. But the more you read about it, the more it fits and the more natural it seems. These flags have great meaning and they are carried with pride. Each family has its own flag and is based in its own tower in Rasenna, creating this kind of elite population.
Another interesting change to the world we know is the Christianity in Rasenna. In this alternate world, Herod succeeded in slaying baby Jesus, therefore this world has never known the words of the Messiah.
The story takes off when Giovanni, an engineer from Concord, arrives in Rasenna to build a bridge over the river and unite the two rivaling sides. Concord has its own reasons to build this bridge, so he is met with a lot of hostility and distrust and soon a war is brewing, among the people of Rasenna, but also with Concord.
Sofia, who will become Contessa as soon as she turns eighteen, shares their distrust at first but soon warms to the Concordian engineer and his plans for Rasenna.
In between chapters there are fragments from a book that describes a bit of the history of Concord, with a focus on Bernoulli, the brilliant man who formed the engineer guild. There are a lot of footnotes, who were fun to read at first, but I soon found myself skipping them, because they hampered my reading rhythm. It was interesting, though, to read about Concord’s history and learn more about this infamous Bernoulli.
As for the characters, compared to the brilliant world building, they were ok. Sofia was my number one character. I like that we had a strong, young heroine who also had a lot of faults. Doctor Bardini, her tutor and one of the main forces in Rasenna, and the nun were also very interesting to read about. Others had the tendency to become a bit clichéed at certain moments. Though the characters are varied and carry the story well, making more of them shine would have made this book amazing.
Irenicon is a book that took me a bit by surprise, especially after the confusing and somewhat false start (for me). Along the way lots of surprising twists are revealed that I didn’t see coming at all. We also learn a lot of new things about this special world throughout the book that added an extra layer to the already excellent world building. I’m intrigued by the role water plays in this world, it really did challenge me and I like it when a book can achieve that.
With the surprising twist for a few of the main characters at the end and the intriguing world building I’m very curious to read the other two books in the Wave trilogy.
Next up is ‘The Warring States’!