Grief-stricken and stranded far from home, a sheltered young woman must rebuild her life and reconsider all she believes to be true.
Apprentice cartographer Vaela Sun thinks she’s the luckiest teen in the Spire when her parents announce they have obtained coveted tickets for a family heli-plane tour over the Continent. Peopled by the warring Xoe and Aven’ei, this icy, remote land has long been cut off from the Four Nations who regard its inhabitants as little more than curiosities. When their heli-plane crashes in the wilderness, blonde, fair-skinned Vaela is the sole survivor. Rescued by Noro, a bronze-skinned, black-haired Aven’ei assassin with whom she soon falls in love, Vaela makes a new life for herself on the Continent, learning to survive without the aid of servants and even taking a job shoveling manure. Coming from a technologically advanced land where peace and prosperity are taken for granted and various ethnicities intermarry without prejudice, Vaela struggles to understand the values of her new homeland. Her gradual awakening hews closely to the well-worn trope of the young Westerner who achieves self-actualization through experiencing the seemingly simple pleasures of the developing world. While apparently attempting to critique poverty tourism and indifference toward the struggles of developing countries and indigenous peoples, the novel falls short in never probing the responsibility developed nations bear for contributing to these problems in the first place. The resolution similarly deprives the people of the Continent of agency.
A sizzling romance cannot compensate for the blind spots. (Fantasy. 12-16)