Henry H. Neff's 'Impyrium': EW Review
A world beholden to magic, yet stripped of all known technology comes to life in Henry H. Neff’s Impyrium. It’s one where dragons still command power, but are barely seen, all while humans and demons coexist in a tenuous, centuries-long truce that threatens to snap at any moment.
At the heart of all this lies 12-year-old Hazel Faeregrine, the youngest member of the royal family, and possibly its only hope as its magic continues to fade. But Hazel’s eyes don’t rest on the throne, instead her nose remains glued to her beloved storybooks as she remains content to practice her spells—only, as she soon discovers, her grandmother has her own plans for Hazel’s growing abilities.
Elsewhere, in the farthest reaches of the empire, 13-year-old Hob Smythe trades in his dangerous job in the mines for an even more dangerous gig as a palace spy, all for the chance to help fight against a system that oppresses non-magical humans.
Neff expertly crafts a world that is both stunning in its detail, and impressive in scope as everything from the language and technology, to the mythology and history of the Impyrian Empire is fleshed out from the beginning.
While it would be easy to credit this to Neff’s Tapestry series, where five books serve as a prequel of sorts to Impyrium, it’s worth noting that the current series is set 3,000 years later. Not only does this allow new readers to jump in unhindered, but it also results in what is essentially a wildly different world, one unfamiliar to those who might have read Neff’s previous books. However there are plenty of Easter eggs and updates for fans of the older series.
Clocking in at 592 pages, the novel is packed with both story and high stakes as both Hazel and Hob are forced to deal with not just peer rivalry and academic difficulties, but also class disparity, civil unrest, and societal expectations. In this way Neff has created not just a world that not only exists on its own, but one readers will be eager to return to.