Sixteen-year-old shadow puppeteer Jetta Chantray performs with her family’s traveling troupe, the Ros Nai.
The dark-skinned, dark-haired Chakrans have been colonized by the pale, blond Aquitans who prize their sugar and sapphires, and their shadow theater too. But Jetta has a secret—instead of sticks and strings, she binds souls with blood magic and tucks them inside her puppets. Jetta is desperate to impress the Aquitan general and win passage to Aquitan, where she hopes to find a cure for her mental illness. When the Ros Nai collides with Chakran guerrillas, Jetta and her family are plunged into the chaos of the rebellion. Thus begins an action-packed journey that takes readers from a sultry cabaret to a subterranean tunnel, tropical jungle, putrid midden, shining city, and stone prison. Jetta discovers the dark side of her gift, long-held family secrets, and truths about the horrors and lies of war. There’s a somewhat thin romance with a mixed-race smuggler, and the plot occasionally gets tangled in the weeds of imagery. But readers will be rewarded with vividly drawn settings reminiscent of Hawaii and Southeast Asia, exciting action scenes, and a complex protagonist who contends not only with her malheur, but also ambition, anger, and family loyalty. Ephemera, including telegrams, letters, and scenes from plays, enhance the story.
A brooding fantasy with a diverse cast, rarely-seen setting, and compelling heroine who struggles with bipolar disorder. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 14-18)