(Blame “It’s Gonna Be May” on my Timberlake quote)
Nolan Santiago suffers from frequent blackouts. His family has been desperate to find the medication that will ease his daily and frequent epileptic fits. But the reason nothing is working is because Nolan isn’t having fits. When Nolan closes his eyes – even when he merely blinks – he is in another world, and in another life.
Amara has been a servant on the run for most of her life. She was pulled from the palace to serve and protect the Alinean princess Cilla alongside their elder Jorn, a palace mage who uses his magic to cover their tracks since the coup on the palace years before. Though Cilla was able to escape with her life, she was deeply cursed, and it is Amara’s unexplained ability to self-heal that has made her useful to Jorn and the princess.
It is Amara’s life that Nolan is bound to, though she is unaware of his presence. He has documented it as long as he has been able to write. His family believes these vivid hallucinations are the results of his supposed epilepsy. But Nolan knows that the life and the world he is privy to is real – and he is very invested in Amara’s survival, having experienced every bit of suffering and pain and desire she has faced during her servitude. Everything changes when one day he is able to control Amara and his presence is revealed to her. She is furious at this invasion and confused about what it means. And Jorn and Cilla see the change too. As Amara and Nolan become more strongly linked, the stakes raise for both of them in each of their worlds, and both become intent on unlocking the truth of what has locked them together.
The premise of this book has always grabbed me. On top of that, I read in its many starred reviews of the effortlessly intersectional teens at its center: Nolan is from a Spanish-speaking family and is an amputee in addition to his supposed “epilepsy.” Amara is mute and her sign language is woven into the dialogue easily – as is her bisexuality. I give this book all the points for its wonderful diversity!
Where I had a harder time was following the world-building of Amara’s half of the story. I think this is because I have a hard time with high fantasy world-building in general, not due to the author’s writing (which is very critically acclaimed). The plot twists were very good, and as they were revealed I was glad to be pushing through my own problems with the story. My problems were: the political conflict was confusing, as were the rules of the magic, and I had to backtrack here and there. I became invested with both Nolan and Amara as characters pretty quickly and wanted to understand why they were bound to each other and to see if Cilla’s curse could be lifted. But it was a bit of a slog for me in the Amara half of the book.