Updated: Sep 12, 2021
Raybearer, by Jordan Ifueko (2020)
"In the global empire of Aritsar, love-starved Tarisai is compelled by her mother to join the council of a divine Crown Prince. Her mission? Earn his trust. Fall in love. And when the time is right . . . Kill him."
Really fantastic world-building, immersive characters, and vibrant descriptions are an ode to storytelling in this debut, YA fantasy novel. West African mythology serves as the root, but what grows from that is pure magic - and by that I mean the magic described in the book, and also the writing itself.
Tarisai is raised in isolation, with attendants who refuse to touch her, and is visited only rarely by a distant and mysterious mother, known as The Lady, whom she knows little about. At 16 years old, she is sent away to the capitol to join the ranks of the Crown Prince Dayo's "Council of Eleven." There she meets and connects deeply with Dayo and the other council members, and finally finds a real home, with true friends. But Tarisai was created by The Lady to be a weapon against Dayo. She must now find a way to not only resist the deep-seeded compulsion, and break the bond between she and The Lady, but to save the empire in the meantime.
To say much more than this would be to give away some important plot points that are better left for you to find out as you read. Ifueko is a skilled storyteller, and weaves the lives of the characters in with the stories and traditions of the empire of Aritsar beautifully. This book was fun, suspenseful, interesting, breathtaking... AND it's the first in a series! There will definitely be at least one more book, which is exciting. The end of Raybearer leaves things open to more adventures (and it does so without leaving a maddening cliffhanger that might make me suggest you just wait til all the books are out so you can read them all at once).
UP NEXT: The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins