A teen girl who dabbles in magic finds herself immersed in a war between kingdoms and the gradual rise of a potentially dangerous cult in Forrester’s (Death Mage, 2015, etc.) YA fantasy novel.
It’s forbidden for Lady Elendria Orensal to study unsanctioned magic, which is reserved for wealthy nobles who can afford the admission fee into a magical order. The 17-year-old and her family of minor nobles moved from the war-ravaged south to Criswall in the northern Kingdom of Mar Thagroth. A first-year college student, Elendria’s amassed some knowledge of magic as well as a blinding-light spell she picked up from a witch back in her homeland, Maren Downs. One night she witnesses a cloaked man murder a young boy and is suddenly worried about her missing pal, Remi, a homeless orphan. Her search takes her to a temple full of atrocities, resulting in a harrowing experience she barely survives. Emerging cultists, who, like the priests from the temple, worship the Lord of the Fallen, Ba’al, threaten the likelihood of peace between Mar Thagroth and the southern kingdom, Jalinfaer. At the same time, Elendria soon realizes other young boys have become murder victims, possibly as some sort of ritual for the cult. She vows to find the killer(s), but a magic-boosting black stone may cause her to lose control. Forrester’s novel thoroughly blends the fantastical and the contemporary. The setting, for starters, is the quintessential faraway land (sorcery and kingdoms) with an indeterminable time frame allowing for modern touches: Elendria walks the campus like a typical college student. There’s a notable class struggle theme that’s fortunately never heavy-handed, showing a clear separation of the city and the slums Elendria traverses looking for Remi. Big reveals come later, involving Elendria’s elemental-magic skills and her ultimate decision to choose an alliance, because pinpointing the villains is far from simple. Elendria persistently displays strength, even when facing seemingly hopeless situations. Supporting characters are equally noteworthy, particularly bestie Lysha, who shares both a love of magic and—fingers crossed—a dorm room next year.
A resilient female protagonist braves the perils of wizardry, ancient cults, and college life.