(Nightshade Prequel #1)
Paranormal Young Adult
Received at BEA
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Chronicling the rise of the Keepers, this is the stunning prequel to Andrea Cremer's internationally bestselling Nightshade trilogy!
Sixteen-year-old Ember Morrow is promised to a group called Conatus after one of their healers saves her mother's life. Once she arrives, Ember finds joy in wielding swords, learning magic, and fighting the encroaching darkness loose in the world. She also finds herself falling in love with her mentor, the dashing, brooding, and powerful Barrow Hess. When the knights realize Eira, one of their leaders, is dabbling in dark magic, Ember and Barrow must choose whether to follow Eira into the nether realm or to pledge their lives to destroying her and her kind.
With action, adventure, magic, and tantalizing sensuality, this book is as fast-paced and breathtaking as the Nightshade novels.
Rift sprints from the gate as though the evil contained in its pages is nipping at its heels, immediately enveloping us in its dark and richly atmospheric world and continuing to coat us in layer after layer of complexity until we are so thoroughly ensconced in the life of the Guard that we dread the next page because it brings us one step closer to reaching the end. The time period is integral to the success of the story, the absolute control Ember’s father feels he has over her life instantaneously raising our hackles as we want nothing more than to speak out against the injustice of being treated as a commodity rather than a person. Additionally, the constant threat of zealotry from the townspeople surrounding Tearmunn as well as the Church itself–where whispers of witchcraft or an allegiance with the devil are enough to sentence any member of the Guard to a fiery fate–hangs heavy over our heads to ensure we’re fully invested in the health and welfare of Ember’s new Guard family.
Ember is an admirable heroine, choosing to embrace the path the circumstances of her birth dictated for her and throwing herself into it with a fervor that brings a smile to our faces. She's a young woman who fights what’s considered a female’s “role” in this time period, wanting to pick up arms alongside the men rather than be married and safely tucked away with a swollen belly, and she is determined to prove her mettle to the predominantly male Guard. There are times when her young age is readily apparent, mostly when she’s frustrated and takes to stomping her foot as a physical expression of that disgruntlement, but for the most part she’s someone we can easily support in her every endeavor–whether it be physical or romantic in nature.
Ember’s relationship with Barrow, her mentor in the Guard, is the kind of relationship that keeps us up late reading, following a mantra of “just one more chapter” to see if the tension thrumming between them will finally snap before we drag ourselves off to bed. They go from strangers to training partners to friends to something more at a pace designed to tease, their every interaction heavy with things left unsaid, and their every gesture garnering our intense scrutiny to see if we can decipher some meaning beyond the superficial. While there is a third player to the romance in this tale, Ember’s preference for Barrow is made clear to both us as readers as well as the other young man attempting to win her affection, therefore sparing us the formation of an actual triangle.
Readers, like me, who haven’t read the Nightshade trilogy in its entirety will have no problem settling into Ember’s world, and while we may miss some of the smaller details and hints as to what’s to come due to our ignorance, our overall enjoyment is not lessened as a result. We’re left on the last page at what’s clearly a beginning, the darkness that’s been set loose finally reaching the doorstep of Tearmunn and forcing the Guard into action, and the time until Rise is released cannot pass fast enough.