This fantasy debut tells of a realm of immortal beings and a teenage girl’s murky past that may put her in danger.
It’s the year 2015 After Deva, which is about 200,000 years B.C. on Earth. Keana Milfort, like other 15-year-olds, is awaiting The Welcoming Ceremony, in which teens undergo the awakening of a divine power. Unfortunately, Keana doesn’t receive her apprentice badge from Lumen Academy, which sends her an empty box instead. If she doesn’t become one of the Devine, she’ll likely be a Regular, primed for hard labor and sans abilities. Keana can’t help but wonder whether her status as a foreigner led to Lumen’s decision; she’s the only one in the nation of Paradis born outside the realm of Devagar. She doesn’t know her birth mother, Stella, but the woman’s connection to an exiled tribe could be perilous. The Anibalians, looking for a way into Devagar, may try to coerce Stella into helping them by threatening her daughter. Keana’s adoptive parents, Edmar and Cerina, believe the teen’s safety lies in another land. But getting her out of Paradis won’t be easy, as the nation is teetering on the verge of chaos. The precognitive authority figures, the Wisemen, are having trouble forecasting events, such as a prisoner’s escape from Daedenn (the correctional facility’s first fugitive) and his abduction of a child. Further complicating matters is The Spirit Seal, a necklace that reputedly grants a legendary power and which Keana and friends hope to keep out of the wrong hands.
Maia’s hefty series opener packs an abundance of character development—and players—into the narrative. Edmar, for one, suffered an injury years ago that severely affected his brain. He retains basic motor functions but rarely speaks (and, as Keana eventually learns, has pertinent information). The story is primarily dialogue, and, accordingly, there’s minimal action. But there is exceptional coverage of the otherworldly aspects; the Devine’s powers include gust-manipulating Windmakers and fire-generating Embers, while many characters are telepathic. At the same time, the origins of Deva, Devagar, and the immortals are largely ambiguous, allowing Maia to integrate contemporary elements fluidly. For example, Marjorye Venom is a tabloid reporter for the Lumen Tribune whose specialty is scandalous articles. Comedy comes in humorous snippets that are welcome without inundating the plot. Even characters with telepathy have a “wisephone,” and Keana’s telecall to her older sister leads to this message: “Hey, this is Marla! I can’t answer your thoughts right now, but leave me a warm memory and I’ll get back to you soon.” It’s clear early in the novel that Keana is special, but specifics on how are presumably left for later volumes; the same is true for her history (for example, her unknown father) and events like the enigmatic Missing War. The author grounds his tale with sturdy character ties, the most endearing of which is Keana’s relationship to Edmar and Cerina—though adopted, she considers them her real parents.
A worthy introduction to a grand world, with rich, profound characters that should bring readers back for sequels.