Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.
But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.
Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.
Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.
This stunning cover immediately caught my attention on NetGalley, but the description really sealed the deal of me requesting it.
Deka comes from a world where a woman’s worth depends on her purity and how well she serves the men in her life. The most she can hope for is to be a dutiful wife and mother, but never have a voice for herself. Compare that to the Deka at the end of the book – strong, empowered, and spirited – and you have yourself one magnificent character arc. How thrilling to watch her realize her worth and know that she mattered.
Deka’s relationships with her blood sisters, her found family, is one of the biggest strengths of this novel. I especially enjoyed the incredibly strong bond of friendship and loyalty between her and Britta. Many of their training and fighting scenes reminded me of the female warriors in Wonder Woman.
World-building is complex and detailed, but interwoven into the story – no info dumps here. Just enough was held back to keep me turning the pages to figure out what was going on with the plot twists. Pacing was a tad slow for me in the beginning, but the ending comes rather quickly – enough to make me sure there would be a sequel since I had so few pages left, but then think it was a standalone because story lines were neat and tidy when all was said and done.
With unique world-building, a female-heavy cast of characters, and compelling plot, I’ll be continuing with this series. A remarkable debut novel.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.