Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication date: 18 August 2020
Genre: YA fantasy
Page count: 496 pages
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
Everyone was talking about Raybearer in the lead-up to its release, and as with most hyped YA fantasy books I was a little cautious going in. I’m a reader that can really be let down by hype, however I’m here to say that Raybearer is absolutely worth your time and is one of the best books of the year!
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?
I wont lie, I’ve been struggling with YA fantasy for a long time. After “discovering” the genre in 2017 and reading every YA fantasy book I could get my paws on, I eventually became much more picky with what I liked. Since that point, I’ve really struggled to find books that break the mould and, for me, are truly something special. Raybearer is one of those books.
The world that Ifueko creates is absolutely marvelous. From the gorgeous settings across cities and countryside and mountains, to the lush architecture and mixing pot of cultures and customs, to the magic that connects people, the world of Raybearer is easily one of the most beautiful I’ve read (and one of the few fantasy settings I’d love to explore in real life!). The magic system is particularly special. The power of a raybearer to mentally connect their council and communicate across the ray was fantastically done and wonderful to read. The consequences of this power, ‘council sickness’, was so impactful and works so well with the themes of found family, friendship, and trust within the novel.
Tarisai is a fantastic character and a new all-time favourite of mine. Ifueko does a wonderful job of developing her from a lonely young child to a cautious preteen and into a sharp and intelligent young woman. I totally understood her every action and decision, as well as how her loneliness and desire to belong to a family or a group impacts her. The romance, although definitely a side plot and not the main focus of the book, was particularly well written and one of the few pairings that felt truly authentic and real. Although Tarisai was mature, she still felt like the teenage character that is so pivotal to YA fantasy. I think she could easily be a case study into how to write a fantastic teenage heroine.
There is so much to say about Raybearer and I could go on and on to anyone who will listen to me ramble about this fantastic book. I read the physical book alongside the fantastic audiobook narration, and would highly recommend the audiobook for anyone interested in listening to a novel with a fabulous narrator.
Raybearer is easily one of the best books of the year and Ifueko is a debut author to watch!
Want to pick up a copy of Raybearer for yourself? You can find it at the following sites (affiliate links):