A much longer story from Johnson than we’re used to seeing, and she makes the most of the opportunity.
The story covers several years, creating a setting that has a strong sense of place, and characters who are three-dimensional and who you feel have had a past, and will have a future beyond the story. An empire is split into two halves by a huge river/ravine through which a mist flows – there are dangers in the depths of the mist, creatures that live in it, and the mist itself frequently claims those who use the ferries to cross it.
Coming from the city, Kit has the contract to build the first bridge across the river, and we follow his journey, differences between those in this more remote part of the country different to what he has experienced back at home. The characters are described lovingly, subtle changes in societal norms being used, rather than heavy-handed silliness with names, or giving characters different coloured skins, as less-accomplished authors would be tempted to do.
It’s a story that gives an insight into several different areas, and rather than simply leading up to a dramatic challenge to be overcome, the final bridging of the mist, whilst important, is just another stage in the lives of the main characters. And there’s a tantalising glimpse of more to come.