You can tell when someone has written the story of their heart because the work just sings. And you'll find that here in RAYBEARER. And I think because I felt the love pouring off the page, it ...
- Blackness Present5.0
You can tell when someone has written the story of their heart because the work just sings. And you’ll find that here in RAYBEARER. And I think because I felt the love pouring off the page, it was impossible for me to put this book down.
There are some stories you walk away from knowing you won’t forget a certain element of it. One character in this novel is firmly implanted in my head and I don’t think she’ll go away. The Lady. You’re probably thinking that’s a simplistic name and perhaps it is, but then that should tell you the strength of this character to have such an impact. Easily, The Lady is one of my favorite antagonists of the year so far. She opens the story with such a cunning play that I was immediately hooked into following the rest of her journey.
It’s a journey that finds its largest thread through her daughter, Tarisai. But her daughter isn’t a full human and is bound to an awful magical command given to her by The Lady. She’s sent off to kill a Prince she’s never met and to only do so once she has earned the boy’s trust and love. It’s a horrible thing to bind a child into doing, but the beauty of the writing is that you still feel on some level that The Lady has a very valid reason for wanting this awful thing to unfold. (Spoiler Alert: She very much does have legitimate cause)
But despite the terrible cause that The Lady sends her daughter to fulfill, it ends up being one of the best things to ever happen to Tarisai. After passing a couple of initial tests, she finds herself a part of a group of special children all vying to be part of Prince Dayo’s inner circle. To become part of this circle requires truly loving Dayo and boy does Ifueko do the work of making us believe that. The relationships she establishes with Dayo, Sanjeet, Kirah and the other children is so achingly real and believable. When the words of love are openly expressed, there’s not an ounce of it that feels superficial. And it so rare to find a platonic relationship between two main characters given as much depth and consideration as Tarisai and Dayo have. I loved that about this book because in a world that so often makes such relationships seem improbable, I’m glad this dynamic takes a firm stance against that.
But back to The Lady because she offers a unique dynamic to Tarisai too. The mother/daughter dynamic between them is so heartbreaking because there manages to be so much love hidden amid the dysfunction and the deceit. It’s quite abusive what The Lady did to Tarisai and the book doesn’t shy away from that, but it also shows you how hurt people hurt people. The Lady does everything she does because of how love was taken from her life. She is such a complex anti-heroine (and yes, I call her that despite the less than reputable mess she pulls). I want to root for her and yet can’t ever bring myself to fully because of Tarisai. In a way, it makes me think of Magneto and how his message is not in the slightest bit wrong but how he treats those around him makes it impossible to ever really fully root for him.
And if the power of these relationships weren’t reason enough to check out the book then the lush worldbuilding should do it. There are so many passages of description in this novel that made the world come to brilliant life in my mind’s eye. Ifueko has built a world here that is ripe for the kind of exploration that could take many books to really dig into. And if all the characters are as powerful as Tarisai and The Lady, I’ll happily sign up for the long haul. Aritsar is a world you are not going to forget and will wait eagerly for another visit to. I know I am.