A man with an unknown past
For years, Amar has traveled the Kavoran empire, seeking a way to recover his lost memories and end the curse that plagues him. With support from loyal friends, Amar may finally be on the verge of finding answers, but to do so, he’ll need to enlist the help of an unexpected guide.
A girl afraid of her own powers
Kesari is a Tarja, granted magical abilities through her Bond with a spirit named Lucian. Haunted by past mistakes that have left her desperate to sever her Bond, Kesari has her own reasons for agreeing to help Amar. But in doing so, she may finally have to face the fears she’s carried ever since leaving home.
A woman on a vital mission
Meanwhile, a young refugee named Aleida is in hot pursuit, hoping the secret behind Amar’s curse can save her brother from a fatal illness. With so much at stake and little left to lose, Aleida will stop at nothing to get what she wants.
And when their paths collide, all three are set on a journey to unravel a mystery far deeper than they ever suspected.
***Thank you to NetGalley and the Victory Editing NetGalley Co-op for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
This book was an excellent set up for what will likely be a really great series. The writing was good, and the plot maintained my interest despite being largely centered around one of my least favorite fantasy tropes, the journey/quest. I think the multiple POV really helped to keep things feeling like they were moving forward, and I enjoyed each of the very different perspectives given. The diversity in this book was also a major plus, and I particularly liked that being LGBT+ in this world was normal. I enjoy books about the real-world, often difficult, experiences of LGBT+ people, but it is also nice to get stories where they just get to be normal people (because they are) embraced by the society in which they live.
I really loved the world-building in this story. The magic system was fascinating, and the history of this world felt massive but in a good way. I couldn’t get enough of the history and legends revealed throughout the book and enjoyed how the characters were tied to that history in important ways. The traveling did allow for a glimpse into the cultures of many nations, and the author utilized this trope well by making each stop on the travels somehow tied into the ongoing mystery and/or the characters’ pasts rather than just random obstacles. By the end of the book, I felt like I had a good understanding of the magic and political systems involved in the story and had a lot of fun learning it along the way.
I loved all the characters in this book. I love a good mystery, especially when it presents itself in the form of amnesia or a hidden identity, and Amar was the poster boy for that here. I particularly enjoyed seeing his reactions and thoughts about losing his memory because they felt real and uninhibited. His interactions with his friends and the process of him growing to trust them again was one of my favorite things to read in the book. I also really appreciated the character of Aleida for her moral ambiguity. She did some pretty awful things, but she did them for a very good reason. This dichotomy made her thoughts, actions, and interactions with the other characters really interesting to me. The final character with a POV in the book was Kesari. She struggled throughout the book to come to terms with her past and overcome her fear of her own power. Her arc of growth was well-written and really made me feel for her. All of the main characters were dealing with trauma in some way, and it was fascinating to see all the different character studies of various ways people handle and heal from painful past experiences and loss.
The author does a really great job of tackling some heavy themes in this book. The events happening really highlighted the negative impacts of imperialism and colonialism and brought them to life in an intimate way using these characters. I liked seeing how one of the characters was determined to make up for their family’s role in the subjugation of others and took heartfelt actionable steps to do so. However, I felt the character’s self-blaming thoughts about their role in the horrific acts committed was a bit harsh since they were only 17-years-old at the time with extremely limited power to do or change anything. That bit just sort of rubbed me the wrong way given the particulars of the situation, but I agreed with the overall sentiment that people who benefit from oppressive systems and do nothing to try to stop it are guilty to some degree from complicity. As mentioned before, the characters also provided a window into multiple ways to cope with trauma and loss. I particularly liked the way the author portrayed the usefulness of grounding and other healthy techniques of dealing with difficult emotions. Overall, the mental health rep was pretty spot on, which shouldn’t come as a surprise since the author is a clinical social worker.
Overall, this was a great book with an interesting world and relatable characters. It felt a bit slow at times but not enough to decrease my enjoyment of the book. I’m looking forward to seeing where the series goes next because the ending was excellent and set up some interesting conflict for the next book. Therefore, I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.