This book is fucking flawless and possibly the first time in recent years that a YA debut has deserved all the praise it receives. FLAWLESS, my friends, and easily one of the best fantasy/YA novels ever written.
Raybearer opens on a young, love-starved girl named Tarisai who is brought up by servants in a secluded manor. Her mother, known only as The Lady, visits from time to time, and is one of the few people unafraid to touch her. Tarisai, you see, is psychometric, able to read memories of people and objects by touch, and is being raised by The Lady with a single purpose: to kill a particular boy once she loves him the most.
The boy, it turns out, is Crown Prince Dayo, and Tarisai must be accepted as one of the members of his council in order to further her mother’s plan. Thing is, Dayo is extremely lovable, and Tarisai, having been sent to live at the Children’s Palace as a candidate for said council, finds herself both drawn to him and struggling to resist her mother’s will. And that’s pretty much all I can tell you without ruining the rest of the book, but there’s a convincing found family and love stories; excellent Afro-centric world-building and magic system, and really deep moral and philosophical/political struggles, far more than I’ve come to expect from recent YA. The relationships are complex and nothing is predictable, with all manner of betrayal and violence and empathy and love, explored with sensitivity, depth and authenticity by the truly gifted Jordan Ifueko. She knows how to write sympathetic, realistic characters who are both good and evil, who feel entirely fleshed out and speak and behave so naturally as to feel like Ms Ifueko is scribing a story instead of creating one. The complex relationship between Tarisai and her mother, especially, is beautifully depicted, capturing perfectly the push-pull of feelings in a young girl who wants to please a toxic and not entirely unsympathetic parent.
The narrative ends at a really compelling point, and I cannot wait to get my hands on the sequel and find out what happens next! I really want to gush more about this novel but I also don’t want to accidentally spoil any of the myriad delights of its storytelling for future readers, so all I can do is urge you strongly to go get a copy of this wonderful book. It is truly one of the best books of 2020, and a must-read for anyone who enjoys fantasy novels, wants to see more authentic diversity in quality fiction a/o just enjoys a really terrific read.
Raybearer by Jordan Ifeuko was published August 18th, 2020 by Amulet Books and is available from all good booksellers, including
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