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?
I finished reading this book and I was overcome with so many thoughts, the main one being; How do I get over this absolutely incredible book and will any other Y/A Fantasy this year top this? and the answer to that? A resounding no. Raybearer is a truly stunning novel in all ways, filled with rich description, fantastic world-building and a protagonist which will claim your heart.
A massive thank you to the Hot Key Books YA team for gifting me a beautiful paperback copy – Just look at that cover art!
I have to begin with the fact that this is such an impressive debut novel – if I had gone in without knowing anything about the author, I would never have even guessed that this is her first published work. The writing itself was so skilled and Ifueko manages to cover so much ground in a relatively ‘short’ time – the paperback copy I had is around 476 pages in total. Right from the start the writing totally drew me in with the rich description and with the pacing which was absolutely great, striking the perfect balance of action, world-building and characterisation. I never felt like any of the important elements suffered and all the pieces just fit together so well. I would also say that while the blurb is intriguing, it can’t possible do the immensity of the story justice so go in with no expectations and prepare to be blown away.
Speaking about characterisation, I loved the characters in this book and how complex and well written they all were. It’s not an easy feat to make the main character and secondary characters all so intriguing and well developed and to also give the ‘antagonist’ so much depth too. I loved and resonated with Tarisai so much, and as a reader I felt like you go on such a journey with her. We first meet her when she’s ten or so and then at the culmination of the novel she’s in her late teens and there’s so much encompassed in this book, from self acceptance, to unlearning old unhealthy behaviours to finding family and love, it’s so profound and I love that this is all so well explored in a Y/A novel. I feel like readers go in expecting an exciting Y/A Fantasy and you definitely get that, but you also get so much more and I really appreciated this.
The worldbuilding and system is just so good, being heavily inspired by West African myths and stories, and different cultures and countries being represented – you can tell that a lot of it is inspired by reality when it comes to the world cultures but there’s the fictional aspect and magical element bringing it to vivid life. I enjoyed how Ifueko explores the difficulties of ruling, of making decisions which affect so many and the power, corruption and suppression that is involved when being in power. I particularly liked the concept of ‘hallows’ – different abilities which people are born with – and how the council of eleven system operated. The latter element being at the core of strengthening the bonds between the characters and furthering the found family element which I loved SO much.
Overall, Raybearer was an absolute wonder of a book and definitely one of my favourite books of the year. Prior to reading I saw rave reviews from a lot of my trusted reviewers so I had an inkling that I would enjoy this book but now having read it for myself, I can honestly say it surpassed even my highest expectations. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favour and go get a copy of this book, trust me, you won’t regret it!
Until next time,