A teen fantasy debut that sees a young woman caught between warring nation-states.
It’s 3085, over a thousand years since the Third World War delivered nuclear destruction. A new civilizationcalled Unmundi has risen. Situated on a single continent are four habitable regions: the Mountain Division, the Sea, the Desert and the South Division. In the Mountain Division lives 18-year-old Anastasia, an orphan who serves in King Byron’s castle. When Anastasia’s brother Zephyr is robbed on the Crossing—a road that allows trade among the Divisions—Byron doesn’t believe him and instead threatens to kill him. After Anastasia begs for his life, the king proposes a solution: “You swear yourself to me, and I shall spare your brother’s life.” Anastasia agrees, and the king wastes no time abusing her; she defends herself and flees. Once Anastasia is recaptured, a metal collar is soldered around her neck. Luckily, the blacksmith sympathizes with her, later helping her escape. Anastasia reaches the South Division and finds work as a scullion wench in King Valek’s castle. In contrast to King Byron’s oppressed people, Anastasia’s new acquaintances seem to worship Valek, who violently usurped the throne from the South’s previous king. But Byron doesn’t plan to let Anastasia escape easily; he’s branded her a dangerous criminal and hopes to enlist Valek in her return. Debut author Khan pulls readers into her medieval world with moments that wouldn’t be out of place in Game of Thrones. In one particularly brutal scene: “Somebody was screaming in the dungeon. It took a moment for Anastasia to realize it was her.” Khan typically offers just enough description to set the scene, eschewing the bulk that many fantasy novels favor: “The entrance of the castle was at the top of some raised white marble stairs, and the double doors were also a white marble with black veins intertwined into the white stone.” The problem is that aside from a world risen from the ashes of nuclear war, there are scant other fantasy elements. Straightforward action/romance follows from a great (if familiar) premise, enlivened with only a few minor twists. The sequel should take more creative risks.
A slight diversion for fans of teen romance.