A rebellious lady fends off and flirts with actual rebels in this series starter.
Recalled after three years of desert exile, 16-year-old white Kestra Dallisor is kidnapped—yet again—by Corack rebels while en route. Blackmailed and released to the wary supervision of former servant Simon Hatch and erratic Trina, Kestra returns home with a mission: find a book, find a blade, and help overthrow the evil Lord Endrick, last of the Endrean magic users, leader of the Dominion and ruthless ruler of Antora. Predictably, the headstrong, now-lethal lady’s homecoming is complicated by an aloof father, upper-class expectations, and an unwanted suitor. Not as kick-butt as Katniss, Kestra is nevertheless disturbingly accustomed to violence, as are her fellow characters, with some scenes verging on Tarantino territory. Alternating narrators Kestra and Simon brim with righteous indignation and rigid views, spouting polarized political propaganda until their shared past and star-crossed passion make them question everything. Front-loaded with worldbuilding and evidently lacking characters of color, the mostly medieval, somewhat fantasy tale ricochets among underdog rebellion, improbable heist, and torrid, florid, forbidden romance.
Nielsen’s fans will eagerly anticipate sequels, but newcomers may find this first entry too little different from others in the genre to persist. (Fantasy. 14-18)