As infighting grips Efea’s Saroese royalty, its neighbors move to invade their weakened adversary; unable to dissuade her Patron father and sweetheart Kal from defending the corrupt regime, Jes sides with her mother’s people, native Efeans now reclaiming their land.
The rift between her parents has widened, but both disapprove of Jes’ relationship with Kal, and their fears are heightened when he reluctantly takes the throne. In this rigid ethnocracy, biracial Jes is considered a “mule” by contemptuous Patrons, a traitor by resentful Commoners. Kal’s go-slow plans to raise Commoner standing anger Jes—she knows it’s too late for small steps. Leaving Kal, she’s kidnapped, badly injured, and sent to the desert, where Efeans and criminals of both castes mine ore under brutal conditions. Plotting their escape keeps her alive. Their Saroese overlords won’t voluntarily abandon caste and privilege; to reclaim their decentralized, matriarchal society, Efeans must fight. Gifted with her mother’s patience and father’s military prowess, Jes proves an exceptional leader. Sustaining the Patron aristocracy exacts a high price—but so do the sacrifice and compromises required to overthrow it. Magic and religion, patriarchy versus matriarchy, hierarchical versus decentralized government; these themes are all seamlessly integrated into the action-packed plot.
High-fantasy series rarely attract serious literary scrutiny, yet when done well—as here—no genre is better fitted to trace the threads of history from past to present and explore the fascinating patterns they weave. (Fantasy. 13-16)