In the walled-city of Alu, traditionally three maidens get chosen when the ruler dies to accompany him into the underworld. Essentially a death sentence, being chosen is nonetheless viewed as a great honor. When our story begins, the ruler is currently on the brink of death.
Kammani’s father is a great healer, although disgraced after a former royal patient’s death, he gets summoned to the kingdom to attend to the ruler. Unfortunately, he mysteriously disappears, never getting to tend the sick man.
Kammani has been training under her father’s tutelage for many years. She dreams of one day being the best healer in all the land.
When her sister gets chosen to be one of the ruler’s maidens, and her father cannot be found, Kammani takes it upon herself to get into the kingdom and prevent the ruler’s death. If she doesn’t, she could lose her sister as well; the only family she has left.
Once in the kingdom, Kammani feels like something sinister is going on. After a botched attempt on her life, she knows she must be close to the truth.
I truly enjoyed this world. I felt it was rich and well built. If I had to sum in up, I would say, in my head I was picturing Astapor, ‘the red city’, from Game of Thrones. A world sharply divided between haves and have-nots. It was brutal and dangerous with a healthy dose of palace intrigue.
I really loved these characters and how the story unfolded. There is a lot of beautiful writing in here on grief and sacrifice. The love of family is a strong theme throughout and some of the dialogue between Kammani and her slightly pouty younger sister, Nanaea, had me in tears.
I did get frustrated with Kammani now and again over some of her choices but overall, I understood her motivations and felt attached to her character. I think we left it at a perfect spot for the continuation and I look forward to the battle that I know will be taking place. It’s bound to be epic!
Thank you so much to the publisher, Delacorte Press and Random House Children’s, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. This is such an impressive debut with a lush, dangerous world, one I cannot wait to return to!
Well done, Kelly Coon. Well done!