BLM Book Fairies: A Review of Raybearer, by Jordan Ifueko

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko is part of our BLM Book Fairies campaign and here is a book fairy review!

About the book:

Tarisai grows up in an enchanted house that no-one else can see, unless her mother, known only as The Lady, grants access. From the windows of her study room she looks out onto the rest of the world, people going about their every-day lives, until one day the windows are boarded up and the small glimmer into normality is taken away. 

When Tarisai is 10 years old she is sent to The Capital. She doesn’t know why or what to expect, but suddenly she finds herself at The Children’s Palace amongst dozens of other hopeful ones from the 11 different realms – and Dayo. Dayo is the Prince, destined to one day succeed his father as the emperor. Tarisai has an instant, powerful connection to Dayo and through her years at The Children’s Palace, and the trials herself and the other children have to undergo to show their worth, she discovers that an emperor anoints eleven council members as a child, one for each realm. 

The chosen ones share a “Ray”, a telepathic connection that makes them speak to each other in their minds and ensures they have an unbreakable bond. And in return, each of the Council members make an emperor invincible to one of the eleven ways to die – until only old age remains. But despite Tarisai and Dayo’s strong bond, she refuses to be anointed for reasons only known to herself. Because a dark secret lingers as long as she is close to the Prince, one that can be the undoing of Dayo, the Ray, and everything the empire is built on…

A book fairy review:

Every once in a while you come across a story so wildly imaginative that you cannot stop being amazed at its originality and depth – Raybearer is one such a gem. So often, especially within the fantasy genre, the worlds within the pages start to sound the same; kingdoms and knights, love triangles, etc. The tropes in young adult fantasy have become predictable and unimaginable. Raybearer, however, is the exact opposite. Every chapter reveals something exciting and new that makes the world Tarisai lives in so rich, complex, and unpredictable. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on where the story is headed, author Jordan Ifueko throws another surprising development into the mix to keep the reader amazed and gripped. 

This does mean that sometimes I was a little lost along the way, forgetting the importance of a certain character or setting, especially when dipping in and out of the novel in the beginning. Only after I turned the final page did I realise there is a cast of characters with their home realms in the back of the book, alongside a glossary of the made-up words belonging to the world of the Raybearers. Don’t make the same mistake I did and use it to your advantage so you can get completely sucked in from the get-go. And despite some initial confusion, once I got pulled into this world, it didn’t let me go – and I ended up finishing the novel well after my bedtime. 

With its rich and layered worldbuilding, powerful storytelling, complicated realm history, and even more complex characters to fall in love with (Sanjeet and Woo In, I’m looking at you), Raybearer is one of those novels that sticks with you long after turning the final page. And the way the story was left off, while satisfactory for this novel, certainly leaves the doors wide open for a return to uncover even more secrets hiding in the empire of Aritsar, the Underworld, and perhaps even realms we have yet to discover. 

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