In early January, I had a lot of gift cards to spend. I have my birthday, my anniversary, and Christmas in December, and I always get at least one card for my favorite bookstore, One More Page Books…and this year I think I got two or three. On the day I went in to shop, I didn’t have anything particular in mind, so I just went over to the “Staff Picks — Best of the Year” display, and picked up a few books I hadn’t heard of, but that looked interesting.
And I put them on the shelf at home, to live with all of my other beautiful but unread books.
Until this week, when I walked by it and the blue on the cover caught my eye. I sat down and read the first chapter, and I knew this book was going to be amazing.
Zhorsha (call her Zee) lives in Wichita with her sister LaReigne and her nephew Marcus. They are poor, and Zee does whatever it takes to make ends meet. Sometimes, that means running drugs into Colorado, sometimes waitressing, and sometimes using her body for money.
Zee’s mother is an 800 pound hoarder, who never gets out of her chair in the living room. Zee’s sister volunteers at the local prison — the very same one where Zee’s father served a life sentence and died a few years back. When Zee and LaReigne were little, their father and uncle Alva robbed a few banks, and ended up killing a guard one time.
When the book starts, LaReigne has been kidnapped by prisoners who had planned an escape. Zee is on her way home from bringing two suitcases full of weed to Colorado (with Marcus, because LaReigne never came home that night), and finds her apartment surrounded by police and reporters. Not knowing what’s going on, Zee panics and goes to her mother’s house, which is also surrounded by police.
Zee tries to get Marcus safely inside without being swarmed by reporters but struggles…until Marcus is hoisted in the air and brought safely inside by a quiet young man named Gentry. Who happens to be Zee’s stalker.
Gentry is autistic, and is pretty sure he is a knight. He speaks in Olde English, he spends his spare time jousting and sword fighting with other midieval re-enactors. Gentry announces himself as Zee’s champion — he will do whatever it takes to protect her, always.
Zee gets more and more involved in her sister’s disappearance, willing to do whatever it takes to get her back to Marcus safely. And Gentry is by her side, every step of the way, even when his family makes their disapproval quite clear.
Once the story gets going, it is pretty much non-stop. There are some true bad guys in this story, and we know that Zee’s quest to find LaReigne isn’t going to be easy. Even the quiet moments are filled with tension and dread. But as ugly as some of the action was, there was real beauty in some of the scenes that were just between Zee and Gentry. He truly made her a better person.
As Zee and Gentry get closer to finding out what happened to LaReigne and how to find her, they realize they’ll need help from someone who understand how criminals think and work. They also realize that they’re going to need money, and a lot of it, to pay for information and contacts. This is where Uncle Alva comes into play. After years of robbing banks with Zee’s dad, he knows the wrong people and has questionable cash on hand.
How much will it cost — both financially and personally — to find out where LaReigne is and how to possibly get her back? How much will Zee have to spend to make her world a safe place again?
Some truly terrible things end up happening, and it was often difficult to determine whether the decisions made by Zee and Gentry were the right ones, but I rooted for them constantly. I didn’t love Zee as a character, but I loved Gentry, and he loved Zee, so her safety became important to me.
The book is told from the point of view of a handful (maybe two handfuls) of narrators…some a bit more reliable than others. Zee’s chapters move the story along, Gentry’s chapters fill in the details, and then we have input from Marcus (who is five), Zee’s mom, Gentry’s fellow knights, various police officers, Zee’s uncle, and Gentry’s mom.
I loved this book and am so grateful to One More Page for bringing it to my attention.