Wednesday, May 30, 2018

ONYX AND IVORY by Mindee Arnett

Rating: B+
They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king years ago. Now Kate lives as an outcast, clinging to the fringes of society as a member of the Relay, the imperial courier service. Only those most skilled in riding and bow hunting ride for the Relay; and only the fastest survive, for when dark falls, the nightdrakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: she is a wilder, born with magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals. But it’s this magic that she needs to keep hidden, as being a wilder is forbidden, punishable by death or exile. And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by nightdrakes in broad daylight—the only survivor her childhood friend, her first love, the boy she swore to forget, the boy who broke her heart.

The high king’s second son, Corwin Tormane, never asked to lead. Even as he waits for the uror—the once-in-a-generation ritual to decide which of the king’s children will succeed him—he knows it’s always been his brother who will assume the throne. And that’s fine by him. He’d rather spend his days away from the palace, away from the sight of his father, broken with sickness from the attempt on his life. But the peacekeeping tour Corwin is on has given him too much time to reflect upon the night he saved his father’s life—the night he condemned the would-be killer to death and lost the girl he loved. Which is why he takes it on himself to investigate rumors of unrest in one of the remote city-states, only for his caravan to be attacked—and for him to be saved by Kate.

With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin have to put the past behind them. The threat of drakes who attack in the daylight is only the beginning of a darker menace stirring in the kingdom—one whose origins have dire implications for Kate’s father’s attack upon the king and will thrust them into the middle of a brewing civil war in the kingdom of Rime.

My thoughts on the book:
Onyx and Ivory was a compelling fantasy adventure. I really enjoyed the world that Arnett created and the characters who inhabited it. The writing and world-building were very well done, and the characters were interesting and realistic. This is a wonderful addition to the fantasy genre. 

I felt like the main characters were well-developed and decently easy to relate to. I've recently lost my father, so I understood the grief that Kate was going through, even though she'd had a few years to process it. I know in her position, I'd want to know why he did what he did, too. I also liked that she was a strong character and made her own way. She wasn't completely ridiculous with the decisions she made, though some of them weren't brilliant, but she was only 19, so she still had a lot to learn (her age is why I classified this as new adult instead of YA). Corwin wasn't swoon-worthy in my opinion, but he was a good match for Kate. They complemented each other well. I wasn't a fan of Dal and Signe, or their relationship (it was just too convenient), and I felt that the other secondary characters could have been better developed. 

I thought that Arnett's writing was superb. The alternating perspectives, told from a third person's POV, which allowed for free, indirect discourse, was nicely done. I could always tell whose chapter it was from their "voices," even in third person. That's hard to accomplish. Some of the descriptions were a bit overdone, and the drakes' descriptions were not clear enough, but overall, I had a good what kind of world the characters inhabited, as well as the rules of that world. The pacing was a bit slow to begin with, but for the most part, the pages flew by. The ending tied things up nicely and set the stage for a sequel. Thankfully there were no cliffhangers.

Overall, I'd recommend this novel for people who enjoy high fantasy books, such as Orphan Queen, The Red Queen, and An Ember in the Ashes. 

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