In Waller’s stunning debut, a young woman is forced to choose between love and duty.
Kateiko, tan-skinned with light-brown hair, is an antayul (water-caller) of the Rin-jouyen, the oldest of the Indigenous peoples of the Aikoto Confederacy. Their small numbers mean her list of potential husbands is limited until she turns 18 and can marry outside of her jouyen. Hoping to do just that—and to escape haunting visions of what Rin elders believe is the Aeldu-yan (spirit world)—she treks southward to the Iyo-jouyen. A deadly encounter during her travels with soldiers of the itheran, or foreign settlers, leads her to Tiernan, a jinrayul (fire-caller) and ex-mercenary, also tanned and brown-haired, who takes her into his home. When the Suriel—a not-so-dormant air spirit—suddenly attacks the colonists, war is declared, more political schisms erupt, and Kateiko and Tiernan find themselves engulfed in chaos. Waller’s worldbuilding is beautiful and lavish, her alternate history rich and complex (thank saidu for the backmatter), and even her characters’ profanities are colorful. Kateiko’s relationships with far older men are disconcerting (at 18 her virginity is lost in a consensual encounter with someone over twice her age) yet she remains in control throughout. Readers will admire the fierce strength which drives her coming-of-age journey.
An intricately lush and well-crafted new fantasy that deserves (and demands) a sequel. (glossary, timeline, maps) (Fantasy. 15-adult)