In this non-stop, fantastical thriller, Jennifer A. Nielsen delivers yet another page-turner following the highly intriguing life of a young woman named Kestra Dallisor. This chapter of Kestra’s life finds her in exile in the barren lava fields of her kingdom, Antora. However, this dull landscape is soon behind her as she is unexpectedly summoned back home to the lush life she never liked or appreciated. Her trip back is far from enjoyable, therefore, but for many more reasons than she imagined. Her life is suddenly flipped on its head and she is plunged into a quest she never wanted, for people she never supported, and a goal she never wished to reach. However, multiple lives hang in the balance, so she must use her wits to battle around her ever nearing deadline, plot her escape, and retrieve a legendary artifact that has been lost for decades. In addition, her two companions on the quest are not who they seem to be, and she must also stifle her feelings for one and her hatred for the other. In the end, Kestra uncovers more than she ever bargained for, and the novel ends with her leaving everything she’s ever known to fulfill her perilous future alone.
This novel had me on edge constantly, and provided perfect portions of action, plot twists, and intrigue. Something I liked better in this novel than in Jennifer A. Nielsen’s most popular book The False Prince, was that Kestra’s story also included some very complicated relationships. With her father, mentor, handmaiden, and two Corack accomplices, she faced an enormous number of emotional trials. In addition, Kestra and one of her Corack accomplices, Simon, had quite the character history, and had many subtle flaws that other characters do not often have. While this book might have lacked the background explanations that The False Prince was able to provide so early on, I was not at all disappointed by the new and interesting plot line Ms. Nielsen produced so well.
A highly memorable, uniquely harnessed structural trait of this novel was the switching of points of view between characters. Because there was a romantic relationship in this story, obtaining both perspectives helped the reader understand the situation far better than reading just one opinion. Kestra is a very stubborn character, and while her true motives were often shared openly from her perspective, the frustration she caused others only became clear from a second point of view. While I have read a few other books that have used this technique, none of them were as well executed and memorable as this one.
Reviewed by Isabella Kenney, Grade 7, Twin Hickory Area Library