Huge thanks to the wonderful people at Balzer+Bray for sending me a copy of Mindee Arnett's ONYX & IVORY for review! Keep reading for more about this amazing book and why I've decided it's my favorite read so far of 2018!
They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king years ago. Now Kate lives as an outcast, clinging to the fringes of society as a member of the Relay, the imperial courier service. Only those most skilled in riding and bow hunting ride for the Relay; and only the fastest survive, for when dark falls, the nightdrakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: she is a wilder, born with magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals. But it’s this magic that she needs to keep hidden, as being a wilder is forbidden, punishable by death or exile. And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by nightdrakes in broad daylight—the only survivor her childhood friend, her first love, the boy she swore to forget, the boy who broke her heart.
The high king’s second son, Corwin Tormane, never asked to lead. Even as he waits for the uror—the once-in-a-generation ritual to decide which of the king’s children will succeed him—he knows it’s always been his brother who will assume the throne. And that’s fine by him. He’d rather spend his days away from the palace, away from the sight of his father, broken with sickness from the attempt on his life. But the peacekeeping tour Corwin is on has given him too much time to reflect upon the night he saved his father’s life—the night he condemned the would-be killer to death and lost the girl he loved. Which is why he takes it on himself to investigate rumors of unrest in one of the remote city-states, only for his caravan to be attacked—and for him to be saved by Kate.
With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin have to put the past behind them. The threat of drakes who attack in the daylight is only the beginning of a darker menace stirring in the kingdom—one whose origins have dire implications for Kate’s father’s attack upon the king and will thrust them into the middle of a brewing civil war in the kingdom of Rime.
Going into ONYX & IVORY, I was pretty sure I would enjoy it. Fantasy is my favorite genre, the synopsis sounded pretty good, and I've heard great things about Mindee Arnett's previous books. So yeah, I thought I'd like it well enough. What I wasn't expecting was to stumble across a book that even from the first few pages showed that it was something special.
Where to start! I've been gushing about this book to friends for days as I read it, and I haven't had a single negative thing to say. Susan Dennard is quoted on the back cover, saying, "At once fresh, at once classic, Onyx and Ivory is a page-turning blend of monsters, magic, and romance." I think she's really spot on with that blurb. Onyx and Ivory truly does feel like a classic, in the vein of Finnikin of the Rock or Song of the Lioness. It has all the same ingredients to make it stand out, but at the same time it doesn't feel derivative or cliched. No, Arnett has woven her own world, story and characters together in a signature way that just works. It works so incredibly well.
I absolutely loved the alternating points of view, switching back and forth between Kate and Corwin. Both characters are strong, easy to love, and made me feel so much. Their stories are heartbreaking and uplifting, and so utterly sincere. Towards the end of the book I began to have actual visceral reactions, feeling everything right along with the characters. That, for me, is rare and I see it as a mark of true storyteller.
Like I said before, I don't have anything negative to say about ONYX AND IVORY. A few other things that stood out to me were the pacing- excellent, the world building- original, and the way the story built on itself in a way that everything that happened mattered and came back around, rewarding me as the reader for paying attention early on. This is a book that I will definitely revisit as I impatiently wait for the sequel.