Isolated from the world by a magical barrier, two sisters navigate dangerous changes when a stranger crosses over.
Eighteen-year-old Zuhra lives with her mother and younger sister, Inara, trapped by a sentient hedge in the long-abandoned Citadel of the Paladins. Once, the gryphon-riding warriors chased and defeated the rakasa monsters from their dimension and protected the humans of Vamala, but now they have all but disappeared. Zuhra and Inara share Paladin blood, but Inara’s blue eyes glow with power, repelling their mother, who forbade all things Paladin when the girls’ father disappeared after Inara’s birth. Inara is often lost in her own mind, with only brief moments of lucidity, leaving Zuhra feeling alone, longing for connection. When Halvor, a scholar of the Paladin and the first boy they have ever met, breaches the hedge, Zuhra is intrigued by his revelations of the world and motivated to escape, but the mysteries of the citadel prove more dangerous than any of them know, threatening both realms. Larson’s (Bright Burns the Night, 2018, etc.) narrative of might, magic, and a deep sisterly bond is uneven, with beautiful prose that is repetitive and dual voices that sound very similar. The female characters suffer abuse and isolation, making their longing for romantic connection understandable but leaving them dependent on their male counterparts. Naming conventions pull from different world cultural traditions, but physical descriptions point to whiteness as the standard.
An enjoyable, if flawed, tale. (Fantasy. 13-18)