Trigger warnings for RAYBEARER include the following: murder, parental emotional abuse, reference to suicide, misogyny, off-screen rape, off-screen sex scene
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.
As a reader of fantasy, I loved every bit of this book. When we first begin reading it, we are introduced to Tarasai. She is sheltered and deprived of love and friendship. I felt empathy for her. I wanted nothing more for her than to be loved. She desired love from her mother, who was absent and unwilling to offer it. Throughout the novel, we see how this beginning helped to shape her outlook on life and how she related to others. This deprivation was unlike children in captivity experience. Though the setting of this story is in a fictional world, it is not undeniable to see the real world implications of childen in captivity (refugee camps, ICE detention, prison). As the story progresses, we see how this sheltering has made Tarisai feel connection with the other children on the council. She has found the family that she craved and needed.
Jordan Ifuenko did an amazing job creating this world. I felt that I could immerse myself in this story and visualize everything that occurs between the pages of this book. Aritsar is an empire of many peoples, and with the empire building, there is a dark side that becomes very apparent with the sacrifices of the children of Songland. These children are outside of the empire, yet the sacrifice of these Redemptors are on the behalf of the empire. The inequality is felt in the reading of these pages and is not ignored. Ifuenko has also brought forth the issue of gender equality. Only the men can lead this empire. As a reader, I felt that the writer addresses this very well and beautifully, without being preachy.
By the end of this book, I didn’t want it to end. I could have read more and been satisfied. I am grateful to have stepped into this world, and can’t wait for what happens next.
My mother was the devil, and I, her puppet demon.
“You write your story, not the people who came before you. Come”
That story isn’t mine anymore; it’s unwritten
I can choose. I can write my own story
’m not normal, Dayo. I’m not natural, or safe, or good. But I can protect you.
Don’t stop waving. Don’t stop smiling. They will pass your faces down to their children and grandchildren. You’re not human beings- not anymore. You are nations. You are history walking.
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