Mara Rutherford began her writing career as a journalist but quickly discovered she far preferred fantasy to reality. Originally from California, Mara has since lived all over the world with her marine-turned-diplomat husband. A triplet born on Leap Day, Mara holds a master’s degree in cultural studies from the University of London. When she’s not writing or chasing after her two sons, she can usually be found pushing the boundaries of her comfort zone, whether at a traditional Russian banya or an Incan archaeological site. Mara is a former Pitch Wars mentee and three-time mentor.
Author website: https://www.mararutherford.com/
From the author of Crown of Coral and Pearl comes an immersive new fantasy about a witch who must learn to harness her power—or risk losing her loved ones forever.
Liora has spent her life in hiding, knowing discovery could mean falling prey to the king’s warlock, Darius, who uses mages’ magic to grow his own power. But when her worst nightmare comes to pass, Darius doesn’t take her. Instead, he demands that her younger sister return to the capital with him. To make matters worse, Evran, Liora’s childhood friend and the only one who knows her secret, goes missing following Darius’s visit, leaving her without anyone to turn to.
To find Evran and to save her sister, Liora must embrace the power she has always feared. But the greatest danger she’ll face is yet to come, for Darius has plans in motion that will cause the world to fall into chaos—and Liora and Evran may be the only ones who can stop him.
Liora has spent her life hiding who she is, her gift, never truly living her life. Knowing that it keeps her and her family safe she is more than willing to stay hidden, even if she does long for something else, of a life of adventure and romance, but she knows if anyone found out about her, especially Lord Darius, she would be carted away never to see her family again. One night, after going out looking for her sister Liora is discovered by her neighbour who quickly realises she is a Mage, a discovery that sets Liora on a path she never saw coming. To protect her family and the boy that she loves, Liora will do everything she can to make sure they survive, even if that means going up against Lord Darius, the most dangerous mage in the Kingdom, she just needs to accept her powers first.
Liora was a brilliant POV to read this story from. So unsure of herself, always told that her power was something to fear instead of embrace. She is incredibly skittish, and the only people she feels safe around are her family and Evran, the boy next door who has her heart. I really enjoyed seeing her come into her own, accepting her power as a part of herself, something not to be afraid of. She really grows as a character in this book, learning to trust both her power and herself, and I thoroughly enjoyed following her on her journey.
Rutherford also introduces us to a wide cast of side characters, and my one sticking point would be that none are developed well enough to really stand on their own. Even Darius, the antagonist. Because we don’t get a big insight into his character I really struggled to feel anything for him. I also felt there were some characters that just didn’t need to be included, they added nothing to the overall story, instead making the story feel a little disjointed. I did like Liora’s sister, Mina, she was a stereotypical little sister but I enjoyed her outlook on the world and her always positive behaviour.
I did love reading about the magic system, and learning about all the different types of magic. Though there were some typical types of Mage, those that could transport, change their appearance, there were also those who could cry diamonds as well as other unique abilities. One that the story focuses on heavily is that of Margana, Liora’s neighbour, she is a weaver and has the ability to weave anything to life, be it animal or human. Though not always used for good, I really enjoyed learning about her power, how she infuses traits into her works, and how she brings them to life. I also enjoyed seeing Liora’s power grow, she always felt the ability to ‘glow’ was a little useless, but the more she learns about herself, the more she learns about her power and she quickly realises there is more to it than simply shining like a star.
The romance was fun and sweet. Both Liora and Evran were so unsure of themselves, deeming themselves unworthy of the other. The progression felt really natural, and I desperately wanted them to get their happy ending. There is also a f/f romance between two minor characters that I really enjoyed following, and though it played a small part in this story, if the author ever decided to some back to the world I would love to read more about them.
If you’re looking for a fast paced read, with plenty of plot twists, a villain who might not be as evil as you were lead to believe, a sweet romance and brilliant descriptive writing then look no further. I will certainly be checking out the authors other works.