A teenage boy who’s able to summon souls and revive corpses flees with his uncle from those seeking to eliminate his kind in the first installment of debut author Markoff’s fantasy series.
Years ago, people in the Land of Moenda endured the Purging, in which the ruling members of the Ascendancy sent Sanctifiers to kill the powerful Deadbringers, who can bring dead people back to life. But although the Ascendancy has full power in the South, the Bastion controls the North, and its agents have been covertly protecting a surviving Deadbringer: 15-year-old Kira Vidal, who lives in the city of Opulancae, working as a mortician and headstone carver at his uncle Eutau’s funeral parlor. He’s also been helping Bastion agents track down a killer. That assistance, however, leads to an attack from a Kataru, an elite warrior, during which Kira is forced to defend himself by reanimating and commanding corpses. As a result, the Ascendancy gets wind of his existence, so Kira and Eutau go on the run. The Sanctifiers soon figure out Kira’s possible destination: the Southern city of Florinia. Meanwhile, a curious woman named Daemeon visits Kira in his dreams and offers him a guide for his arduous trek—a young girl named Teemo. Along the way, Kira learns several secrets, including a few life-changing ones that his uncle’s been keeping from him. In their travels, they encounter a motley batch of characters, including a wounded man named Lyse. Kira digests new information on Moenda history and the full extent of Deadbringers’ capabilities. Overall, Kira’s journey becomes more about discovery than outrunning Sanctifiers, and the author packs her novel with intrigue; for example, Kira suspects that maybe Teemo may be more than she seems. There are also shocking reveals, such as the fact that Eutau may know more about Kira’s long-gone father than he lets on. Perhaps best of all, Markoff’s setting is engagingly ambiguous—the specific year and exact location are unknown, giving the narrative a timeless quality. That, coupled with an impending Bastion/Ascendancy confrontation, should make the series’ next installment tempting for readers.
A bevy of rich characters, plot twists, and possible paths for future books.