Magic-wielding twins and their romantic interests fight monsters and mercenaries in this overlong but exciting series opener.
Ashyn and Moria, 16, may defy tradition at every turn, beginning with their shared birth and continuing with their unauthorized weapons training, but they intend to fulfill their roles as Seeker and Keeper for the small town of Edgewood. With execution outlawed in the empire, guards regularly maroon exiles in the Forest of the Dead; the Seeker retrieves their corpses and lays their angry spirits to rest while the Keeper protects the village during the Seeking. But when Ashyn enters the forest and finds a few survivors, she also discovers monstrous creatures straight out of Moria’s favorite legends. After a long—and vividly described—massacre, Ashyn and Moria flee Edgewood, trek across treacherous wastes and seek an audience with the emperor, accompanied by con man Ronan, scorned warrior Gavril Kitsune, and the girls’ bonded animal companions, Daigo, a wildcat, and Tova, a Hound of the Immortals. Armstrong (The Rising, 2013, etc.) smoothly switches from her customary modern paranormal setting to a high-fantasy adventure, but she still favors relationship drama and reversals of fortune.
Strong female protagonists make this trilogy opener a standout, if not a stand-alone read. (Fantasy. 14 & up)