A kick-ass pirate heroine gets into and out of (mostly into) trouble in this invigorating fantasy.
Within the first five pages of this debut, Ananna of the Tanarau ditches her wedding, meant to ally her pirate clan to the Hariri. She may escape this unwanted bond, but she finds herself in another, far more powerful one when she saves the life of Naji, the assassin hired by the Hariri to bring her back or kill her. Now magically connected to the scarred blood magician, she attracts the collateral attention of malignant Otherworldly powers. If she wants any chance at a future that includes her own ship—hell, any future at all—she must quest with Naji for a cure to the curse that binds them together. Clarke’s debut harkens back to the best in fantasy/adventure, offering rock-solid worldbuilding, satisfyingly perilous obstacles and a protagonist whose charismatic ’tude goes way beyond spunk. Ananna’s voice grabs readers from the beginning (“I ain’t never been one to trust beautiful people, and Tarrin of the Hariri was the most beautiful man I ever saw”) and doesn’t let go. Her wry, agreeably foulmouthed (“Sure, sirens are a pain in the ass”) narration is equally smart and funny, incorporating both trenchant observations and frankly beautiful phrasing that never misses a step (“I hadn’t even recognized the hope for what it was until it got dragged away from me”).
A ripsnorting series opener; may the sequels arrive soon. (Fantasy. 13 & up)