A traitor’s daughter contends with her painful past and dangerous future in this series opener.
Nineteen-year-old “Traitor Kate” Brighton tries to outrun her father’s infamy as a Relay rider in the kingdom of Rime. Rider life is tough, especially with a new onslaught of ravenous drakes, but Kate loves horses, with whom she shares a forbidden “wilder” magical bond, risking the attention of the Inquisition. When an unexpected encounter reunites Kate with “Errant Prince” Corwin, she returns to the city of Norgard determined to protect the wilders and uncover the reason for her father’s treason. Meanwhile, co-narrator Corwin renews his rivalry with his brother, Edwin, and must compete against him for the crown. Blond, blue-eyed Corwin and black-haired, golden-skinned Kate are typical tormented protagonists, but some of the secondary characters mercifully compensate for this angst-y duo. The setting is blithely anachronistic, describing revolvers as revolutionary but newspapers and pocket watches as familiar, and plot loopholes, geographic inconsistencies, and political history are all too often (and not always successfully) obscured by magic. Arnett (The Nightmare Charade, 2015, etc.) notably draws attention to economics and poverty, elements often downplayed in fantasy novels, but otherwise offers a generic tale of action and romance. There is some ethnic diversity in secondary characters.
A reluctant-rebel riff on “Cinderella,” with more horses. (Fantasy. 14-18)