For magic! always for magic! And for characters who all have their complexities examined and everything is in shades of gray. For a story that matches the absolutely brilliant cover and title.
Zahru has long dreamed of leaving the kingdom of Orkena and having the kinds of adventures she’s only ever heard about in stories. But as a lowly Whisperer, her power to commune with animals means that her place is serving in the royal stables until the day her magic runs dry. All that changes when the ailing ruler invokes the Crossing: a death-defying race across the desert, in which the first of his heirs to finish—and take the life of a human sacrifice at the journey’s end—will ascend to the throne and be granted unparalleled abilities. With all of the kingdom abuzz, Zahru leaps at the chance to change her fate if just for a night by sneaking into the palace for a taste of the revelry. But the minor indiscretion turns into a deadly mistake when she gets caught up in a feud between the heirs and is forced to become the Crossing’s human sacrifice. Zahru is left with only one hope for survival: somehow figuring out how to overcome the most dangerous people in the world.
What’s most impressive is how much story was told in this one book, and how quickly I read it. Yes, I’ve been looking forward to this book for months at this point, but it read so easily and I just couldn’t stop! In the rare moments where I did have to put it down, I found myself thinking about it and wondering what would happen next. Absolutely loved that!
“Daydreaming is all fun and games until you’re chosen as a human sacrifice, and having to sneak through a dilapidated town with a deserting prince and the risk of a treason charge.”
Perhaps equally impressive is the balance of time given to examining each of the main characters, and even several of the side characters. They all had intricate backstories and motivations, hidden aspects of character that required insight to truly see. I honestly couldn’t predict what they might do or why. Although the premise of the story might lend itself to some cliche good-versus-evil dichotomies, they never arose. This was entirely shades of gray, and that’s exactly what I had hoped for.
On a personal level, this totally reconfirmed my belief that talking to animals is one of the coolest kinds of magic possible. Even if that’s not a belief totally reinforced by the characters themselves, I adored seeing the way Zahru used her magic for the mundane and the ingenious. Her journey is one that I thoroughly supported and she’s remarkably consistent in her core values, even as she grows. One prime example is that she does often think about her father with worry, despite the life-or-death-magic craziness she’s thrown into. Elements like that were not forgotten about, nor the fact that all of this took place within the span of about a week.
Overall a really fun read that will hook you from the start and only gets better from there!
PS – congrats on being #1 seller, but “ancient historical fiction” feels like not quite the right category xD