I’ve neem wanting to read this book for years and finally got the chance when my book club decided on it for this month’s read. In a world with a strict caste system, those with darker skin and especially those with white hair, known as Diviners, are treated as second class citizens. The visual combination of dark chocolate skin and white hair was beautiful as well as intriguing. We follow four main characters; Zelie, a Diviner who trained to fight in secret; Tzain, Zelie’s older brother; Amari, the princess of the ruling class; Inan, the prince.
The world of Orisha is brutal and cruel, especially to the Diviners. In the past, there were several maji clans gifted with unique magic, from the Tiders who control water to the Reapers who controlled the spirits of the dead. Each clan had rulers but when the korisdans, a race with lighter complexions, invaded everything changed. The maji and Diviners lived in some form of tenuous peace until one horrible night. The royal family was killed, the King, his daughter-in-law and grandchild, leaving only prince Saran. Seeking revenge King Saran ordered the Raid, every maji was slaughtered, leaving the Diviners that survived the bloodshed as nothing more than slaves. Now the Diviners have no access to their magic and are abused by the guards daily.
When the world forces Zelie, Tzain and Amari into a quest to bring back magic, the three must find a way to overcome their differences and those that hunt them. Meanwhile, Inan, loyal to his father and following his orders, is desperately chasing the trio. Zelie is particularly distrusting and hostile towards Amari, despite her risking everything to help the people her father has wronged. Instantly it’s clear Tzain and Amari are drawn to each other, which only makes Zelie even more nasty towards her. Though it’s clear Zelie isn’t an inherently hostile person, she has just suffered terrible trauma over the years and is suspicious of any korisdan, especially the daughter of the sadistic King.
Zelie and Tzain’s relationship is an extreme version of any siblings’ relationship. Due to all the trauma their family has suffered which resulted in them having to care for their mentally impaired father, they are always arguing and blaming one another. Zelie is a strong young woman with the natural instinct to stand and fight whenever someone is bullying her or someone else. Unfortunately, this leads her to get into trouble that Tzain must clean up. Despite all this, the two love each other and will do anything for one another.
Inan’s character arc was enjoyable and full of twists and turns. He has been raised as the next ruler of Orisha by a cruel and abusive father. He wants to do what is best for the country, but he also wants to be loyal to his father and make him proud. I won’t spoil too much, but there is an instant where Zelie and Inan must work together to help Amari and Tzain. It was awesome to see these two great fighters work together, the enemies didn’t stand a chance! Even when he was chasing her, it was obvious these two were drawn together just like Tzain and Amari, though they fight with everything they have not to acknowledge their feelings. I longed for the two to be on the same side, at the very least for Inan to be free of this father’s grip. He was a great character to display how the ‘villain’ isn’t purely evil but is the hero of his own story.
I love that the main animals of this world were enormous, enhanced versions of those in ours, eg a lionaire is a huge lion, large enough to ride with enormous horns. There are several varieties from a lionaire to foxaire to the royal seal’s snow leaponaire, all of them giant and ferocious. Zelie and Tzain raised a lioner called Nailah from a cub who now carries the siblings and Armari across Orisha.
This magic system was unique, and I loved the different clans of maji, they were unique from one another yet had so much in common. It was an excellent display of no matter how much we think we are different from one another, more joins us than separates us.
If it wasn’t obvious already, I loved this book! It was a unique fantasy look at how those with darker skin, or any minority with different skin colour, are often treated as second class citizens. It was great to raise awareness on such an injustice – I still can’t believe such a barbaric thing is going on in today’s ‘modern’ society. This world was incredible, and if everyone was equal and treated with compassion and consideration, this would be an intriguing place to live. Besides, who wouldn’t love an enormous animal as a companion that you could ride on! I give it 5/5 and am dying for the next instalment which comes out very soon! I listened to the audiobook which had amazing narrators that really brought the world and characters to life. By the way, there’s talk of it becoming a movie or tv show which would be amazing!