Kort (A Curse of Memories, 2017, etc.) and French (Ghost Is the New Normal, 2017, etc.) join forces to launch a fantasy series about a woman’s encounter with a highly unusual cabal.
In the land of Tilzam, the Blaukenev clan travels from country to country by wagon. Chavali is the clan Seer—marked by a pink feather sprouting from her forehead—who can know somebody’s thoughts at a touch. During carnivals, she reads customer fortunes in her tent, though the “parade of idiots and twits” with pedestrian problems irks her. Even worse, her bodyguard, Keino, harbors obsessive thoughts about her that bleed into her mind whenever they touch. One day, three men on horseback ask to travel with the caravan. Chavali learns that their names are Teryk, Eliot, and Colby. Each wears a signet ring on his middle finger, and they ask her numerous questions about the clan. After parting ways with the horsemen, the Blaukenev travel west, and one night, after Chavali finishes her readings, an insistent final customer offers to pay double to see her. He has the intense gaze of a predator and tells her, “The Order of the Strong Arm has come for you, Chavali.” This confrontation soon leads her to join a group of resurrected individuals with a very specific mission. In this brooding series opener, Kort and French insightfully explore staple fantasy elements, such as telepathy and resurrection, to luminous effect. Regarding the possibility of having a child, for example, Chavali wonders, “would she know the moment it began to form thoughts and be bombarded with them, unable to prevent it from driving her mad...until it was born?” Characters like Keino and Pasha, Chavali’s younger teenage sister, are sharply rendered and will draw readers deeply into their nomadic world. Events that occur midway through the narrative, however, prove that Kort and French are daring storytellers who aren’t afraid to yank the rug from beneath the audience’s feet. The book’s second half thoughtfully deals with the topic of revenge, and no character ever takes another’s life callously.
A fast-paced series opener that will make readers eager to know Chavali’s next move.