Two magical friends seek their destinies in this debut YA novel.
Fifteen-year-old Nara Dall, the adopted daughter of Bylo the laborer, doesn’t know anything about her origins or the long scar that runs all the way down her back. Her best friend, Mykel Aragos, is strong and hardworking but self-conscious about the scar from a surgery to heal his cleft palate. Both teens live in the impoverished town of Dimmitt on the southeastern coast of the Great Lands. Dimmit is preparing for its triennial announcement ceremony, during which local adolescents are tested for magical abilities. The town has not produced a gifted teen in many years, but Nara suspects that she might be discovered at the event. “Not only would” talented young people “earn money in royal service or private employment, but the magic was a gift from Dei. A divine blessing. A reminder that they were loved.” Nara learns from Bylo the secret reason no one in Dimmitt has been chosen—and what it has to do with her—and she seeks to rectify the situation. But it doesn’t go as planned, forcing Nara and Mykel to flee for their lives. Nara’s untrained abilities draw them into a power struggle between dark forces that is about to grip the Great Lands, during which she may finally learn about her own mysterious past. In this series opener, Willson writes in a simple prose that delicately summons his fantasy world to life: “A thin-bladed ornate dagger called a ceppit was the instrument used by the priest to reveal a youth’s magic potential. The priest would intone a prayer and use the ceppit to impale each child’s palm.” While the premise and setting come from the most common tropes of YA fantasy, the author does a good job making the realm come alive by peopling it with complex characters and including worldbuilding flourishes like the runes of the Great Land’s holy book, the Cataclysmos. Readers should be happy to return for the next volume to see what Nara and her friends are up to under Willson’s capable eye.
A familiar but enjoyable fantasy with an intriguing heroine.