Seventeen-year-old Shae has led a seemingly quiet life, joking with her best friend Fiona, and chatting with Mads, the neighborhood boy who always knows how to make her smile. All while secretly keeping her fears at bay… Of the disease that took her brother’s life. Of how her dreams seem to bleed into reality around her. Of a group of justice seekers called the Bards who claim to use the magic of Telling to keep her community safe.
When her mother is murdered, she can no longer pretend.
Not knowing who to trust, Shae journeys to unlock the truth, instead finding a new enemy keen to destroy her, a brooding boy with dark secrets, and an untold power she never thought possible.
Shae has a secret. From the outside she leads a relatively normal life, talking about boys with her best friend and definitely not flirting with a boy from the neighbourhood. But underneath all that normality she is afraid, afraid that she has somehow got the ‘Blot’ the disease that killed her brother. When her mother is murdered, Shae is cast out of the village and decides to seek out the Mages, those who are tasked with taking out the ‘blot’. Only what she discovers when she gets there turns her world upside down, not only does Shae learn a truth about herself, but she also discovers that this place of sanctuary may hold the key to her mothers murder… and Shae might not be as a safe as she thinks.
I have mixed feelings about this book. I definitely think it will appeal to the lower end of the YA age range, but I found some of the storytelling a little confusing and couldn’t fully get myself into the plot. Shae is a really great POV to read from. She leads a pretty secluded life, her family shunned after her brother died from the ‘Blot’ a disease transferred by Ink. She spends her time between caring for her mother and their farm and spending time with the only two friends she has in life Fiona and Mads. She is headstrong and determined, willing to go against those in a position of power especially if it means protecting those she loves, and I found it incredibly easy to bond with her as a character. Though we do get introduced to numerous other characters throughout the book, I didn’t feel that any were given enough page time for us to really develop a bond with them.
The premise for this book and the magic system inside both had me intrigued, a disease spread by the written word, Mage’s that can perform ‘tellings’ such as the ability to make it rain or bring a barren wasteland back to life. However, the author just didn’t really build on the magic system or explain it well enough for me to get a proper grasp as to what was going on. There were times with Shae when I struggled to tell whether she was in a ‘telling’ or not, and found myself struggling to understand the basics of the magic the mages could create.
The romance in this book is a little awkward in parts. I can see the author preparing for a possible love triangle in book two, but in book one we have one character willing to propose to Shae, and another who she almost ‘Instcrushes’ on who spends the rest of the book trying to dispel her advances. I liked neither more than the other, and though the romance played a large part in the plot, feel like it could have been left out and the story line wouldn’t be effected at all.
Would I pick up book two? Probably, if only because book one ended on a pretty good cliff hanger that definitely left me wanting a little more. But also because I’m really hoping that the author will use it to give us a better understanding of the magic system. This was an enjoyable and easy read, one that I think young readers and YA fans in general will enjoy.