For What It's Worth

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Review: Raybearer (Raybearer #1) by Jordan Ifueko, Narrator, Joniece Abbott-Pratt


The epic debut YA fantasy from an incredible new talent--perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi and Sabaa Tahir

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 Eleven. 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. ~ Goodreads

Source: audiobook copy received from libro.fm & the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Bookpusher: Dulivre & @rocapri

Review: If you have followed the blog for any length of time, you’ll know that fantasy has always been a genre I struggle with. I’m not sure if it’s because I listened to Raybearer on audio or because it so heavily character driven, but this book was a winner for me.

Tarisai was born of magic and raised in isolation with caregivers who were instructed to train her to be the best. Once ready, she is to be sent to the empire of Aristar to be selected to join the Crown Prince’s Council of Eleven and kill him. Dun…dun…dun…

Tarisai only vaguely gives thought to the killing part, instead focused on her training and earning a small crumb of affection from her mother – the Lady – who rarely visits, never calls her by her given name (instead calling her “Made of Mine”), and often finds Tarisai's training lacking and a huge disappointment.

When it’s finally time for Tarisai to leave, she is determined to win a spot on the council and get close enough to kill the Crown Prince Dayo.

Instead she finds herself bonded to the council members by something called the Ray and truly cares for Dayo as they grow over their years together at the palace. There are time jumps (she arrives in Aristar at 11years old I believe?) so you get to see how she goes from longing for love from the Lady to forming a real bond and friendships with the council and Dayo who she is sworn to protect now.

But fate and the Lady’s third wish (for Tarisai to kill Dayo) still need to be fulfilled and Tarisai is torn between her (platonic) love for and desire to kill Dayo. 

I don’t want to go into too much detail because of spoilers but Raybearer is rich in character development, magic and complicated choices/relationships. The friendships are wonderful and sometimes fraught with tension.

On the surface, this is a traditional – chosen teens from various areas join to try to overthrow the adults kind of deal. But Ifueko has interwoven a beautiful tale rich in culture, fate, found family, and triumphing over and changing destiny. The council originally goes into their duty without question – considering it an honor. Over time though, they begin to see the stories they have been told aren’t necessarily the whole story and begin questioning things and have to decide what and to who their true duty is to.

This is not an action packed story. Things do happen but I found it to be more about the journey than non stop action. Personally, I loved that. I’m a big fan of exploring ethics and morality and Raybearer tackles so much of that, especially colonialism, erasing history and customs in the name of unifying and peace. It also explores patriarchy, trauma, gaslighting, and there is one ace character.

The side characters are so special and important to the story and Tarisai’s growth. The villains are properly villainess. There’s a touch of romance – probably not who you’re thinking if you go by the summary and it was very sweet and low key.

As with most fantasy/dystopian stories, there tend to be lulls and most of the big reveals and action is packed into the last third but there’s an interesting set up for future books.

I absolutely ADORED this one on audio. Narrator Joniece Abbott-Pratt actually gave me chills when she voiced the Lady with a soft almost cat about to kill the canary like purr - Daugh-ter…me of mine – creeptastic! And I can still here Dayo saying to Tarisai – Do you love me now? and her renditions of the songs relating the history of the various lands and cultures. Her voice for Tarisai was pitch perfect - she conveyed the sadness, fierceness and wonder perfectly.

As I said, I’m not a big fantasy reader, so I’m not sure how it compares or holds up to other fantasy but I really enjoyed this one and especially the characters, who are still in my thoughts a week later.

18 comments:

  1. Wow. I'm not a fantasy reader AT ALL, but if I were to give the genre a chance, you would have convinced me to start with this one LOL.

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  2. Nice review, thanks for sharing your thoughts

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  3. The same narrator did Grown and it was AMAZING. I hear she also did Legendborn?

    Back to the review, YASSS a fantasy on Karen's blog. I think it really helped that this one was so character driven and didn't rely on the tried-but-true YA fantasy tropes.

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    1. SHE reads Grown?? I was thinking of buying the hc but I will definitely do audio instead. I am so in love with her voice. I can still hear it in my head.

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  4. This sounds appealing. Your reviews really capture the essence of books. I like fantasy (and sci-fi) because they let our imagination wonder, "What if..."

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    1. Thank you so much.

      It's usually too descriptive for me, i get bored but this world was so richly developed and the characters were great.

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  5. There was nothing about this book that really spoke to me until I read your thoughts on it. That Raybearer tackles such things as colonialism, erasing history and customs in the name of unifying and peace definitely makes me think that it may be my kind of read after all.

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    1. It was an easy story to read and keep up with but was still very complex in so many ways.

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  6. I don't read a lot of fantasy either but I'm glad you liked this one.

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  7. Thanks so much for this review! You know, I never do audiobooks and I always want to give them a try. This one looks interesting, though I’ll be honest—fantasy fiction has never been a favorite of mine either. Sounds like it was worth the read for you so I’ll have to give it a try!

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    1. I still struggle with audiobooks but I'm getting better. When I find the right ones though they are amazing!

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  8. I haven't read fantasy in ages but this sounds nice. And I like it when it's more "About the journey"- I don't need fantasy to necessarily be all action, I kinda like a little more introspective story nowadays. Sounds like this is a good one for audio too- even though I don't do a lot of audio, I do think some books just lend themselves more to it.

    Glad this was good! Nice review :)

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    1. I get really confused (or bored lol) when fantasy gets too big. This was just right for me.

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  9. It sounds so good!
    But dang it, YA fantasy always burns me, I need to stay away, it is my cryptonite

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  10. I really need to read this!! I have the physical copy but I've heard such wonderful things about the audiobook narrator that I think I need to get that version. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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