Revolution is brewing in Riaznin, and 17-year-old novice Auraseer Sonya Petrova is the people’s only hope for freedom.
Sonya can divine the feelings of others, and as a result of her ability, she belongs to the empire. When the current sovereign Auraseer is executed for failing in her duties, Sonya, as the next eldest Auraseer, must take her place. In a palace of gold, marble, and amber, she becomes the ruthless Emperor Valko’s sixth sense, his guard against those who seek to destroy him. The blandly drawn and oftentimes whiny Sonya quickly falls into a problematic willing-unwilling love affair with the manipulative and violent emperor. She also falls for Prince Anton, Valko’s treasonous younger brother, but his attitude toward her seems indifferent. The love triangle plays out predictably and resolves, at least for now, in Sonya’s commitment (described without graphic sex in one of many over-the-top ways: “Our auras entwined in a beautiful dance and affirmed the rightness of our union”); the political situation likewise plays out without much suspense. Connections to the world-outside-the-book are clear: Riaznin is certainly czarist Russia circa the revolution, while surrounding empires Estengarde, Abdara, and Shengli are analogous to France, Iran, and China, respectively; the Romska Sonya travels with correspond to the Romany, down to their coloring.
Unfortunately, this debut is just another first in an epic fantasy trilogy that relies on a love triangle to bring tension to the story. (map) (Fantasy. 12-18)