In this intriguing epic fantasy, the magic used to control limited resources eventually corrupts the social order as well.
After their distant ancestors’ attempt to seize the Well that nourishes the water-starved kingdom, the so-called Closest are eternally Cursed to obedient slavery. Now the Well is running dry, and the rulers command that distant estates be abandoned and their Closest left to die. But, astonishingly, one young Closest, Jae, has awoken the dormant magic that might be able to save the Well and the world—except she is more inclined to let everything burn. Debut author Allen has crafted a gripping narrative that explores complex questions of agency, the impossibility of remaining innocent in an unjust system, and how manipulating history enables the domination of the present. She does not shy away from depicting the corrosive effects of slavery upon every class or the graphic cruelty and abuse (including sexual) that result. Although everyone is described as variously “dark,” the Closest’s darker skin and curlier hair imply further racial stratification. Most of the characters’ motivations avoid simplistic moral binaries, and wrathful, ruthless Jae, who uses her newfound power to punish and even kill without regret, is a particularly courageous choice for a heroine. While this volume comes to a satisfying (if bittersweet) conclusion, there is clearly—thankfully!—more to come.
Ferocious and intelligent. (Fantasy. 14 & up)