This book is just a RAY of excellence.
….And I will not apologise for using a completely appropriate title pun just now 😌 I just absolutely adored every page of Raybearer. (Well I listened to the audiobook, which was also incredible and I can’t recommend enough!!) It felt fresh and powerful, creative but also gives that comfort of a good sprawling fantasy world that you can just lose yourself in.
I suspect this will be the best YA fantasy I’ll read this year and I am here, in awe.
the characters were everything
This is generally what sells a book for me, and oh I love the cast of Raybearer so much. Tarisai is cunning and clever, soft and vulnerable. She just wants a family and to be loveeeeed. Her voice is spectacular; she has the kind of narration that makes every scene a delight to be in. She also has a very specific gift: she can see the memories of a person or object just by touching them. She can also erase or dull memories, and she actually uses this for good to take away her childhood friends’ bad dreams. 🥺
The side characters also stole my heart too. I loved Dayo (the prince) and his and Tarisai’s really tight friendship. Then there’s Kirah who was practical and clever but also that mothering friend. And Sanjeet! The one who is too tol, too intimidating…but secretly an utter marshmallow. (Also can we take a second of deep appreciation that a YA book exists where the first boy Tarisai meets isn’t the love interest 😂👌🏻 thank you.)
The complexities of the villains (are they villains 👀) were also thoroughly captivating. I also loved the coming-of-age bent to this. The prince and his Eleven are still only growing up, so while they learn politics, the adults are still busy controlling the world. Their backstory was both layered and dark and fascinating too.
This is also #ownvoices Black fantasy and all the characters (I think!) are Black too!
let’s talk about the plot
The world is so deliciously complex and huge, it had so many layers. It felt REAL. Vast and unmappable. You don’t have to remember or understand every people group or country, because it reminds you of who is who until you fall into the rhythm of the story. I genuinely appreciate a complex world and history! The backstory is amazing too. Like you could easily want a prequel following The Lady’s life?! (Or am I just craving more from this author…also that.)
The story starts when Tarisai is young: it follows her growing up under tutors and being taught to be terrifically smart. But all she wants is the love and affection of her distant mother, known only as The Lady. At 12 years old, Tarisai is taken to the palace to join the contest to become one of the prince’s sacred 11. This is how the kingdom is ruled: the king (the Raybearer) has a council of 11 and they are all completely interwoven and close and can talk through their minds and all linked by deep deep love.
Of course there are SO many twists and backstories and I’m not even going to go into it too deeply because just read it!!!! But least to say Tarisai gets chosen by the prince and the world unravels and changes from there.
It isn’t action packed and fast, which isn’t a downside, just something to know!
list of other things I loved
- there is an ace side character!!
- it talks intricately about culture, what the loss of it means, how controlling people so often backfires
- it has SO MUCH FOUND FAMILY LOVE
- friends to lovers 🥰
- gorgeous writing on every page
- also very morally grey 👀👌🏻
- the ending has phenomenal twists
- magic! so many kinds with so many impacts
Raybearer really captured my heart and imagination, and I can’t properly articulate just how exquisite this story is. It was creative and nuanced, beautiful and layered. I’m still thinking about it days later and aching with need for the sequel — because w o w that ending has left me both whole and wrecked. I love.
Thanks Netgalley, Blackstone and AMulet Books for the audiobook! Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko is out August 18th, 2020.
Nothing is more important than loyalty.
But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?
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? With extraordinary world-building and breathtaking prose, Raybearer is the story of loyalty, fate, and the lengths we’re willing to go for the ones we love.
tell me some of your favourite 2020 YA releases so far!! 😍is this on your TBR? do you like epic fantasy?