Raybearer – Jordan Ifueko

Wow. This book ya’ll.

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 really loved this book yall. It felt like everything I loved about fantasy when I was first discovering the genre and yet nothing like I’ve ever seen either. It was beautiful and harsh and bright and touching.

Sometimes fantasy can feel blurry around the edges, in that we get so much detail about what is going on in this particular area of the world that the rest of the world doesn’t feel fleshed out. This isn’t always a bad thing, I get why an author may choose not to fill those edges in, but I do appreciate when a story that takes place primarily in one land is able to still create credibility about the whole world.

The prose is what drew me in the most. I said it earlier, but it felt like coming home. Reading the story of Tarisai was a breath of fresh air. I’ve done a lot of thinking about it and I think it comes down to the way Ifueko is able to state something about a fantasy world in such a relatably simple way. As a child and teen reading a book brought concepts to my head that would leave me thinking for days. They were new and fascinating. To me, this book just leveled up the potential of Young Adult Fantasy. Ifueko doesn’t underestimate her target audience and brings them complex ideas to examine. She does it in such a beautiful way.

There are many tropes claimed here, and each is brought to the table with a new spin on them. I was almost certain a love triangle was incoming, but that was vanquished in a delightful way. The chosen one is played with and tugged around but doesn’t quite come out the way I expected, either. Seeing these stories not only subvert expectations but do so while empowering diverse characters was thrilling.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

You can find out more about Jordan Ifueko at her website here. The sequel to Raybearer will be out in 2021!