Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood.
That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?
“What if you were sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?”
Tarisai has been raised in total isolation, she knows nothing of the outside world except the things she is taught in her lessons. Always eager to please ‘The Lady’ her mother Tarisai excels at all tasks, only she doesn’t know what she is training for. One day The Lady appears to tell her she is ready, she will travel to the Capitol and make herself indispensable to the Crown Prince, gain his trust, become one of his 11 council members and then kill him. Too long has Tarisai pandered to The Lady’s whims and wants, she wants a different life for herself, one out of her mothers shadow, and she will do whatever it takes to ensure no harm comes to the Crown Prince… even if she nearly breaks herself in the process.
I adored this West African fantasy and there were two major selling points for me; The Mythology (shocker I know) and the characters. Tarisai herself is a character I bonded with instantly. She craves human contact, the servants at her mothers house afraid to touch her because of her Hallow (power) which can read people’s memories. So when she arrives at the Palace to find a wealth of children like her, unafraid of her touch, she wants nothing more than to accept the bond from Dayo the Crown Prince, but she knows that once she does her mothers task will overpower her and she is unwilling to act on it. She is strong willed, so much more than people expect and utterly loyal to those she loves. Tarisai is the main character and the book is definitely hers BUT the author also manages to give us a wealth of side characters, each with their own personality and purpose in the story, from Dayo the Crown Prince to Sanjeet, Kirah and the other council members, every character has their part to play in Tarisai’s story and I bonded with each and every one of them. Brilliant found family style story
Now to the Mythology… man you know how much I love mythology, and Raybearer did not disappoint. We get 12 tribes and insights into ALL of the tribes cultures and beliefs, which gods they pray to and the creatures that call their lands home. We get little insights into the creation of the world by ‘The Storyteller’ and I could honestly read a book of these stories alone. The magic system was another thing that drew me in from the start. Certain people are gifted with ‘Hallows’ powers such as seeing a person’s physical weaknesses, and using song to heal people. As well as this we have the ‘Ray’ this is what ties the council members together, once a future Emperor has bonded the Ray with 11 future council members they become impossible to kill, except by the council members bonded to them. I found this to be a really fresh and intriguing magic system which was well developed, and though we get a lot of information I never felt overwhelmed and found it really easy to follow.
The World Building in Raybearer was, simply put, *Chefs Kiss.* We learn about the history of the 11 tribes through stories told throughout the book, as well as actually visiting parts of the Kingdom alongside Tarasai. The author managed to make each different land unique in its own way, with its own mythology and cultures. The world she created was brilliantly rendered and so full of colour it virtually leapt off the page and transported you to this world filled with magic and a little bit of mayhem.
There are plenty of relationships explored in this book, from the sibling style relationship of Kirah and Tarasai, the strange bond between the future council members and some romantic entanglements. They were all dealt with brilliantly; the romance was slow burn and swoon worthy, but I loved the bond between all the council members. They are almost like siblings, except closer in a way. Some have the sibling style bond, whereas others feel something deeper for each other. They are each others strengths, but also their weaknesses even if they would hate to admit it. It was fun seeing all the different bonds grow, especially the one between Tarasai and Dayo.
Raybearer ended on one hell of a cliffhanger so I was glad to find out it was part 1 of a series. Though we do get a neatish ending to the main plot points of book 1, we also see Tarasai set herself on a path that we as the reader are unsure she can return from… so I need book 2 right now! Filled with plot twists, that I totally should have seen coming but didn’t, lovable characters and a world and mythology that leaps off the pages, this is sure to hit the spot with any YA fantasy fan.