Author: Jordan Ifueko
Publisher: Amulet Books
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: Available Now
Summary: 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.
Review: First off, let’s talk about that cover shall we? It’s eclectic, psychedelic, and when you get your copy you will see it shimmers. I absolutely love it. As I was reading the novel I realized how well it fit into story as I could imagine the colors, the designs, the characters wore as Jordan Ifueko described them based on the cover. The world of Raybearer is world so poppin’ with color and I am here for it.
Now to the actual novel. The story is such a unique one and is wonderful twist on the “chosen one” trope. Well, Tarisai is not exactly “chosen one” as she is essentially sent to the palace to commit murder but through a plot twist we learn how she fits into the larger role to help change society. I really liked Tarisai as she is a young woman who really yearns for her mother’s love but is afraid to do what her mother asks to obtain it. This personal conflict really drives the story and causes Tarisai to make a heartbreaking decision. However, that decision does buy her years of acceptance, of happiness, and the makings of a family – everything she has always wanted. On the flip side, because she is so afraid of doing what her mother wants, she tends to diminish herself and not see her true power. I loved that her friends figured it out before she did, and said “I told you so” in a such a loving manner, because it showed how often the way we think about ourselves is the opposite of how our loved ones see us. Tarisai had great friends in her corner that saw the her power and supported her even when she almost accidentally kills the Crown Prince. (And this is what I also loved about the novel, this occurred about half way and I wondered where the novel would go from there.) In fact, the relationships is what makes this story so compelling because it is rare to see characters, true friends, written with so much love for each other.
I can’t write a review without mentioning the world building in Raybearer. Ifueko did an excellent job of creating a realistically diverse world that felt like it could actually exist in another realm. The empire of Aritsar is filled with many different types of people with different cultural traditions and Ifueko made them all clear and distinct. The religious systems she created were very detailed and believable, the physical descriptions of the different regions of Aritsar I could also picture as well. Ifueko put in some serious work in creating the world of Raybearer and it made the story all the more enjoyable.
Raybearer is the third fantasy by a Black woman this summer and like the other two, Jordan Ifueko nailed it. In fact, last night I wanted to read another fantasy by a Black woman and it reinforced that there is a need for more of these stories. Publishing – get to work! And Ms. Ifueko, when does the sequel come out? My grabby hands want it now.