This YA/fantasy read is the first book for author Ciannon Smart and it’s a good one! There is a book #2 coming with expected publication in 2022 that continues the story. This is a spoiler-free review.
The main characters, Iraya and Jazmyne, couldn’t be more different on the surface. Iraya has spent most of her childhood in prison after her parents were killed in a political coup. She’s lean, trained in warrior skills, and bent on revenge for her parents’ deaths. Jazmyne is the current doyenne’s Emissary, and also her daughter. She lives amidst luxury at the palace under the demanding, focused, and sometimes cruel eye (literally, the current queen has only one eye). She’s being groomed to be the next doyenne but is often unsure of herself and doubts her abilities to rule. Underneath all of that, however, we find two strong female characters, each determined to succeed, sometimes by any means possible, despite their very different upbringings and life circumstances.
I liked Iraya and her fiesty, fiery personality, but I could really relate to Jazmyne more. Someone with doubts and fears about her own abilities, she winds up trusting the advice of others to her detriment but learns that counting on herself is something she can do, and do well.
The author places this political intrigue into a world unique to other YA I’ve read. It’s inspired by the island of Jamaica, and the world-building of the various groups, both political and ethnic, as well as those cultures, their stories and their speech patterns, all overlaid with fantasy, including powerful forces at work from the ancestors, giant lizards used as transportation, and the power of gold objects to enhance one’s personal magical powers is a heady mix and one that drew me into the story. Loads of plot twists, great supporting characters, and an adventure-filled ending also rounded out things I liked about this one. (I would also take an entire book about the pirates – just sayin’).
I’m giving this a 4-star review as I really liked the characters and the world-building. I felt there were a few slow spots in the plot where the two factions were plotting various things that weren’t necessary and slowed down the action, but the author does a great job writing action scenes and I’m anxious to see what book 2 brings, based on how book 1 finished up.