The afterlife’s warring realms compete for an important girl’s soul.
Tenley has grown up rich and privileged, but she’s refused to sign a contract with Myriad, the Everlife realm to which her parents have signed and which has provided her family with wealth in the Firstlife and assurances of comfort after death. That refusal causes her to be sent to a brutal asylum to be tortured until she changes her mind. Both Myriad (“Might Equals Right!”) and the other realm, Troika (“Light Brings Sight!”), believe Tenley could be the key to ending their eternal war. Each sends a Laborer to persuade her to finally sign; Troika’s is Archer, an impulsive wisecracker with a heart of gold, and Myriad sends bad boy Killian to seduce her. Archer and Killian have a shared history, and they hate each other; cue snark. If she dies without signing, neither realm gets her, and her spirit is sent to a third, mysterious realm rumored to be terrible. The imminent war—and attempts to kill her—might force her to choose. The story is told in a mix of Tenley’s present-tense narration and brief, frequently funny dispatches to and from Archer and Killian. Complicated worldbuilding occasionally disrupts with less-than-graceful exposition. The ending screams sequel.
An inventive premise and easy-to-root-for characters make this a series opener genre fans will enjoy. (Fantasy. 13 & up)