First off, let’s give a huge round of applause to the cover designer. There have been some amazing covers in the last few years and this is one of the best. The book itself was also pretty enjoyable. It’s apparently in the works to be adapted as a movie by the same people who did Twilight and The Maze Runner. Not too shabby for a debut novel!
Zélie Adebola is a young diviner, what her world calls a magi without power. Her world lost magic over a decade ago and magis were all slaughtered, including her mother, by the royals in power. Since that purge, all diviners (conspicuous by their white as chalk hair) are allowed to live, but largely discriminated against by the society around them. Fate throws the royal princess, Amari, together with Zélie and her brother Tzain, in a quest to bring magic back for good. As with any good quest, the clock is ticking and they must avoid enemies along the way.
I thought it was really skillful how Adeyemi was able to make social parallels that pointed back to our world’s problems, without it being a straight up allegory. It is its own story and enjoyable for that, but if you’re paying attention, you’ll be thinking of our world as well. Adeyemi is very good at character work. Perspective shifts throughout the book and each character felt fully realized.
There were only a couple of things that kept this from being a 4 or 5 star read for me. First, I didn’t completely buy into the love stories between the main characters. I am becoming slightly less tolerant of that in YA than I used to be, however, I don’t think this is just me being a curmudgeon. It felt like these characters were falling in love for the plot, rather than falling in love as a natural consequence of plot. Forced together, instead of natural. The other complaint I had was if your first novel is 525 pages, all those pages better be necessary and integral to the plot. I felt there was a lot here that could have been trimmed to reveal a more streamlined and tighter story. That being said, if you like YA or fantasy, I think there is a lot to love here and this might be worth your reading time.