Fear and mystery intertwine in debut author Muze’s first installment of a primitive fantasy series.
In a world far closer to the primal forces of nature and magic than our own, Jovai is thought of as an ordinary girl with an overactive imagination. In truth, she communicates with the dead, gods, and demons in a way her people can scarcely imagine. It seems only natural that Yaku, a shaman, would choose her as his apprentice, but this venerated position comes with a steep price. Jovai’s natural talent and the isolation imposed by her training engender more fear and prejudice than respect. While the people need Jovai and her powers to guard them from lurking dangers, they ultimately cast her out, leaving her lost in a perilous environment where she is accepted by no one and threatened by her people, their human enemies, and other nefarious forces. But when her shamanic abilities and even the gods seem to forsake her, what can she hope to do? The storytelling here evokes classic folktales and mythology, but the setting feels unique and new. Not only that, the characters come across as genuinely human despite their many curious qualities; Yaku Shaman can curse people with his eyes, for example. Jovai in particular is a resourceful, likable protagonist who can more than effectively carry the plot even when she’s isolated from other characters. Her relationship to the spirit realm and her powers add an otherworldly mood and sense of tension. Muze’s unusual prose style (“He backed away, uncertain, her fingers dancing before his eyes, her voice soft, seductive in his ear”) shouldn’t deter readers from this engrossing fantasy.
Mythic forces and novel worldbuilding create a kinetic adventure in this promising series debut.