ALC · Fantasy · Young Adult

Raybearer

There are SO many amazing-looking diverse YA fantasies coming out these days, so many new series are starting, and it’s awesome! But also, I feel so behind in getting to them. I cannot keep up! And I’m also a little nervous about starting them all and then not following through on finishing. I have a weird ability (curse?) to do that and I end up starting so many series that I don’t finish. (I do it with tv shows, too – my partner hates it.) But I feel guilty waiting til the entire series is published to binge-read it, because that doesn’t help ensure that the publication continues. And I don’t know what to do! Anyways, me and my anxiety will continue to sit with that. But in the meantime, I finally got around to this series-opener, thanks in large part to the fact that I received the audiobook as an ALC from Libro.fm

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

“Uniformity is not unity. Silence is not peace.”

Raybearer opens with Tarisai being raised in isolation, tutored intensely by caregivers under the direction of her oft-absent mother. Then, she is suddenly thrust out into the world in a most dramatic way, competing to become one of the Crown Prince of Aritsar’s Council of Eleven. If she is picked, she’ll become connected to the Prince and the rest of the council through the Ray, making them closer even than family. Tarisai wants more than anything to have that kind of bond after her lonely childhood, but she tries to resist because she knows that if she agrees, she’ll be forced to follow through on her mother’s magic wish, a wish that she cannot help but complete, to kill the Crown Prince once she’s gained his trust. But the history of her mother’s magical wish is even more intense and fraught than Tarisai knows and, as the story comes out, she realizes that she is much more, and has a much greater purpose, than she’d ever anticipated.

This was a spectacular high fantasy novel. The concept and world-building were amazing and so in depth. The idea of the Ray-bound Council of Eleven, making the Emperor basically immortal (with the exception/loop-hole of being killed by the hands of one of those 11) was so original. And the depth of the world itself, the different realms, the way they are each represented on the Council, the magic and magic system, the detailed history of the Aritsar Kingdom, and ESPECIALLY the foundational mythology of the nation and how the central ideology and Council of Eleven was invented, was wonderful. I did have some questions about the entire Redemptor/Songland storyline… I mean, I get that that’s the “big deal situation” that the rest of the series is building to, based on the ending and since Tarisai’s mother/magic wish situation was wrapped up in the opening book, but it seemed like an afterthought and not as developed as the rest of the world and plot. I am assuming it’ll get more delved into later, but to be honest, it just didn’t feel as right included here. There was so much packed into this first novel – I had a sensation of being pulled along by the story and the numerous twists and turns (like, my goodness, there was never a moment to take a breath with everything that happened and the years passing) and I loved that. The *need* to keep turning pages is a great reading experience, always, and I will never be mad about it. But there were definitely a few times where things felt a bit rushed. I can tell you for sure that this was in part because of how many characters were introduced over such a short period of time and, with years and years passing from the start of the book to the end, there were a lot of relationships to work on understanding and buying into. Honestly though, I was impressed with how much I was invested in most of them, especially the big ones, like Tarisai with her mother, the Crown Prince Dayo, Kirah and Sanjeet, and even with Woo In. There was great casual diversity in their backgrounds, interests, types of relationships (the focus on found family was wonderful and there was an ace side-character), goals/plans, etc.

I want to also point out a few major themes that I really loved. First, and in main part, the pitfalls of forcing a “melting pot” situation. There is no real unity that comes from being forced, and requiring people to lose their individuality in order to come together as a single nation/people is doomed to failure. We all have our own strengths and things we bring to the table and there is real beauty and importance in recognizing that and celebrating differences, individually and culturally. I hope that we get even more of that as further background in the coming novels about the split between Aritsar and Songland is developed. I was also, of course, into (in this, I-can-totally-see-this-happening way) the power grab situation that led to a single male heir to the throne of Aritsar and the hidden history of the female leader(s)/sister to the first Emperor. It’s such a clear indictment of the way power can corrupt and allows for a wonderful reclaiming of power from males by females within the plot. I appreciated everything Tarisai did to undermine and reclaim that history as she learned more about her own lineage and came into her own power/position. 

Overall, like I said, this was a really original and stunning fantasy. I hesitate to say visually stunning, since it is a novel, but that’s how it felt to me as it played out, in my head and as I listened to it unfold (because let me just say, the narrator crushed it). A super lush and detailed new world was laid out as the plot unfolded and I found myself irresistibly pulled along by the many twists. Tarisai was a wonderful and strong leading lady, soft and tough in perfect measure, and I’m definitely planning to pick up her story when the sequel comes out!


“You write your story, not the people who came before you.”

“I hope you never win the pride of a monster, Tarisai. It’s worse than their contempt.”

“‘Why does everyone hate change so much?’ I demanded. ‘Because things could get worse.’ ‘Maybe. But do you know what I think? […] I think deep down, we’re afraid that things could get better. Afraid to find out that all the evil – all the suffering we ignore – could have been prevented. If only we cared enough to try.’”

“Was it better to have a perfect solution that I couldn’t enforce? Or a weak solution that everyone loved?”

“No, we don’t deserve the burdens that our parents gave us. But we can’t defeat monsters that we won’t face.”

“You don’t have to help me change the world. But you mark my words; when I get going, this world will change. And you can be a part of that…or you can stand back and watch.”

“But our greatest good is the one we can’t contain: compassion, loyalty, softness, fierceness. The ability to win hearts, or recognize beauty, or weather a storm…Our gift could be anything really. And when we use our greatest good for something beyond ourselves, that’s our best desire. Our purpose.”

“Peace comes when stories are celebrated, not erased.”

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5 thoughts on “Raybearer

  1. Great review !!! This was one of my top favorites of last year and I’m glad you loved it too. The narrator is so stunning that I keep putting off reading my eARC of the sequel, because I wanna listen to her narrate again.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. And the couple of songs too,.. it was nice to listen to a narrator singing all the while seeing the locations in our head 😍😍

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d agree with your “visually stunning” description. I kept wishing for illustrations as I read. The setting seemed very vivid in my mind and I wanted to see what an artist would come up with.
    I enjoyed this one too and was mostly taken in by the world it’s set in. I wasn’t sure about continuing with the second book at first, but now I want to because I want to see how the underworld will be described.
    Also, I agree about the Redemptor/Songland storyline not feeling as developed as other things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea I’m hoping that the Songland story will unfold more in the next book, considering where the story seems to be going. But I’m so glad you agree – visually stunning just felt like the right description!

      Like

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