Kateiko, affectionately called Kako by her close friends, wants no part in being a Rin anymore as throughout all seventeen years of her life, she was told the dead were worth protecting even if it meant the death of the living. Feeling restrained and shackled by her people’s customs, she leaves her tribe along with her close friend, Nili, to join another by trekking through the treacherous Coastal Rainforest. But nothing goes to plan when a colonial soldier threatens to kill Nili for trespassing, forcing Kateiko to kill him. Overwhelmed with grief and guilt, she collapses only to wake up in a house owned by Tiernan, an itheran or immigrant carpenter, who seems to have more weapons than carpentry tools. After spending a winter there to heal and mend, she grows close to Tiernan, in which time Nili leaves as she misses her parents and loved ones. But happiness cannot last too long for Kateiko anywhere, as soon after, Suriel, the violent air spirit long thought dormant, wakes and reignites an ancient war. Kateiko sees this as her opportunity to redeem herself to the tribes, but Tiernan sees this as a return to his horrific past life as a mercenary. Now in the middle of a world ready to crumble, Kateiko must choose whether she wants happiness or atonement.
I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I really liked the characters as they were all well thought out and relatable, although a bit cliched. Every one of the characters have underlying motives and there are explanations given to why they did what they did. They also have complex personalities and interesting backstories which helped to really flesh them out. But on the other hand, there was minimal world building. There was no explanation given to how this world worked or why it did this way. All the customs felt like they weren’t fleshed. Even the story, a girl who leaves her tribe and fights for redemption, is not very unique and the storytelling also falters here and there.
The most memorable thing about this book to me is Tiernan. He was, very much, a grey character who had aspects that were both good and bad to him. I both love and hate Tiernan, a first for me, because although he is caring and kind, he still truly is a mercenary underneath and will kill if necessary and shows no remorse at times.
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Reviewed by Aswin Gadipati, Twin Hickory Area Library