Riven (Riven #1) by Mindee Arnett #bookreview #YA #fantasy #dystopian

From acclaimed fantasy author Mindee Arnett comes an epic, adventurous story of a young mercenary magic-user trying to escape the oppressive island of Riven—and a young noblewoman trying to change it forever.

Mars Darksvane wants out. Out from under the thumb of Una, the crime boss who pulled him off the streets as a child and trained him as an assassin; out from the island country of Riven, where magic, in the form of a dangerous material called Ice, allows the rich to live in luxury and keeps the poor in thrall. Mars is a secret adept—a person born with the ability to channel the magic that flows beneath Riven—and while his power gives him abilities useful to an assassin, it also makes him a target. And when his last mission ends in tragedy, Mars finally decides it’s time to escape to the mainland. No magic, no history, a new life on his own.

But Una has other ideas. If Mars wants his freedom, he’s going to have to perform a final job: protecting Fura Torvald—the heiress of the rich and powerful Torvald kith, and the daughter of the last man Mars was sent to kill—and stealing from her a mysterious object known only as the Primer.

Mars has no interest in Fura or whatever the Primer is, nor in Riven’s corrupt and oppressive politics; he just wants to do his job and get out. But as Mars comes to know more about Fura, the Primer, and the true nature of the power in Riven, he realizes that he will soon have to take a side in a fight he has avoided his entire life. Which side, however, he does not yet know.

A story about an assassin trying to escape that kind of life always captures my attention. It must be because of my love for morally gray characters.

I immediately liked Mars. As an orphaned child, he was begging on the streets before crime boss Una trained him as an assassin. Mars also carries a secret – he’s an adept, mages enslaved by the upper class to do their bidding. If he’s discovered, it means the end of his freedom. He shoulders a tremendous amount of guilt, knows what he does is wrong, and wants to live an honest life. He has a plan in place before Una calls him back for a final mission. Unfortunately it involves protecting the daughter of the last man Mars killed and stealing a formula.

Fura is the heiress of the Torvald kith (one of several ruling families of Riven). In this world, magic is dependent on Ice, a toxic resource that has to be mined. All citizens are required to spend a couple years of their life mining it, but some of the wealthier people pay proxies to take their place. Although Fura’s mother schemes to keep the power with the rich and maintain the status quo, Fura has ideas of her own. She’s a believer in equality and wants to change the world of Riven when she takes over from her mother.

Mars undergoes a tremendous amount of character growth and is faced with a difficult choice. On his own for most of his life, he has a strong need to find a place he belongs, and he discovers that with Fura. But Una has the power to end his life and promises his freedom if he completes this contract. I enjoyed most of Mars and Fura’s scenes together (especially the way they meet), but I wasn’t feeling the romantic chemistry between them. I think a friendship would have worked just as well.

With political machinations, lack of trust among characters (plenty of backstabbing), and long held secrets, a lot is going on in this complicated world. Pacing is a little uneven, but I’ll be looking for the next book in this series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

21 thoughts on “Riven (Riven #1) by Mindee Arnett #bookreview #YA #fantasy #dystopian

      1. It reminded me of something I am personally investigating, but also of the concept of dust from The Golden Compass. I love it, by the way, you piece, I mean. The reference to this concept just adds to the complexity of your piece.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Yesha! I love assassin books, and I get why the author included the relationship between Fura and Mars, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I thought they had a better friendship. Other reviews I saw were split on that.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: Prioritizing History in Your Fictional World by Traci Kenworth – A Dash of Words with Loleta Abi Romance Author

  2. Mars sounds like a great morally gray character, Teri. It’s funny how some characters just want to be friends… or they fall in love when we don’t want them to. Or they fall in love with the wrong person, not with the one we planned. It sounds like that might have happened in this case and the author perhaps forced it a little. I think readers can tell, just like you did. Still, sounds like a fun read! And beautiful cover.

    Liked by 1 person

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