Book Review: Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Raybearer

Author: Jordan Ifueko

Narrator: Joniece Abbott–Pratt

Publication Date: 18 August 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy

Length: 13 hours 48 minutes

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing (audio), Pique Beyond (ABRAMS)

Nothing is more important than loyalty.
But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself? With extraordinary world-building and breathtaking prose, Raybearer is the story of loyalty, fate, and the lengths we’re willing to go for the ones we love.

I’ve been struggling to write this review because there’s just so much that I loved about this story. I feel like my review isn’t going to do it justice, but here goes nothing.

Raybearer is the brilliant example of taking the classic tropes that tend to be overused in YA and mold them as your own in order to deliver a riveting and engrossing fantasy that will swallow you whole.

Tarisai grew up being starved of touch since her touch allows her to glimpse and manipulate the memories of others. Tarsai’s mother (The Lady) sends Tarisai to the capital with a special task: kill the prince after he anoints Tarisai as a part of his council. Once Tarisai is at the capital, she wants nothing more to be loved and have a family since it’s a life she’s never known, so is she capable of killing the prince if she’s chosen for the council?

This is one of those stories that I thought I knew exactly where the plot was going especially when it came to romances, and I was so completely off base but couldn’t have been happier. The author did a phenomenal job of creating a full cast of characters that you couldn’t help but love and then have them surprise in you when you least expect it. I loved watching Tarisai interact with Kirah, Sanjeet, and Prince Dayo the most. Each of them influenced Tarisai into becoming something more than a weapon.

The worldbuilding is intricate and beautifully crafted. You have these lush scenes that are chock full of West African lore, and I honestly couldn’t get enough. But, don’t be fooled by this gorgeous cover though because the author tackles a myriad of difficult topics such as: misogyny, race, class, patriarchy, colonization, and generational trauma. Even though this is a fantasy, so much of this tale was a lesson as well.

I don’t want to say much else in fear of giving away this book. I want to also highlight that there is queer, asexual representation in this book. It was what changed my entire experience of this story. I don’t want to give spoilers, but I do think that is incredibly important and needs to be normalized especially in BIPOC communities where it is not addressed as often.

Final note, just read this story. It is amazing and worth every single page.

Thank you to Blackstone Publishing for providing an advanced listening copy through Libro.fm and NetGalley and Pique Beyond (ABRAMS) for providing a review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

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