In the matrilineal monarchy of Tequende, when second-born children reach the tender age of 15, their families must surrender them to be trained as the mightiest soldiers in the land, known as the Second Guard.
Talimendra Sanchez Kalloryn of the Sun Guild is one such recruit, sworn to uphold the Oath of Guilds to serve and protect the queen at all costs. Fellow recruits Zarif Baz Hasan of the Moon Guild and Chey Maconde of the Earth Guild join her to forge an earnest triumvirate supporting one another as fledgling warriors, up to and including their challenges at the Final Tournament. This realm’s setting has a colonial Mesoamerican sensibility, with one city called New Seville and a small immigrant population of Arabites from the Far World. Socially, the Sun, Moon and Earth Guilds correspond to merchant, intellectual and working classes, each with its own culture and rituals. Tested via multiple, layered moral and ethical dilemmas that have modern resonance, Tali swings between moments of confusion (“What is true if everything I’ve been taught to believe is false?”) and mildly subversive clarity (“Sometimes disobeying orders is the only way to follow them”). Vaughn is the pen name for Julia Durango and Tracie Zimmer, and working together, the two writers prove to be competent worldbuilders, cleverly introducing each chapter with a page of background out of a fictitious Tequende history book.
A carefully crafted and empowering coming-of-age tale that adds welcome diversity to the fantasy shelves. (Fantasy. 11-14)