This was one heck of a nice surprise! The surprise being two-fold: 1) that this is almost more of a romance novel than a fantasy story, and 2) that I liked it as much as I did!
Sepora is the daughter of the king of Serubel. She is a Forger – she has the ability to create an element known as spectorium which provides a unique source of energy for people. But her father has found a way to make spectorium into a weapon and now he wants to attack some of the neighboring kingdoms. But Sepora doesn’t want her gift to be used to kill to she abandons her father and her home (so that he can’t force her to make more spectorium). But as she wanders, she is grabbed by some men of the kingdom of Theoria and sold on a slaver’s market where she is purchased to be a part of the harem for Tarik – the young, new ruler of Theoria.
Theoria isn’t exactly mild-mannered and she speaks her mind to Tarik, who takes a real interest in her. He finds her intelligent, impetuous, and very attractive. She finds Tarik more kind-hearted than she expected and hopes that with her help and knowledge about her father’s plans, she can prevent a war that would kill many.
She doesn’t admit to Tarik her full abilities or lineage – only that she has knowledge of an impending war. Despite her attempts to stay impartial in regards to Tarik, she finds herself falling in love with him. But when he admits that he is about to marry the daughter of another king of another kingdom in order to bring their kingdoms together, she refuses to be Tarik’s secret lover or concubine and she leaves … only to be captured by her father’s men.
I found this to be a really well-written story.
I was immediately caught up in the presentation of the characters, particularly Sepora who stands out to me, among YA sf/fantasy heroines because of the balance of characteristics. Too often a character in her position is either very head-strong and changes the people around her, or too shy and learns to come out of her shell. But Sepora is a smart character who understands her role, challenges it, and is truly motivated to find a way to peace above all else.
Tarik is also presented as a well-balanced character who steps into a role he wasn’t quite prepared for, understands the people he looks after, and rules with a strong hand and strong heart. It is possible, just possible, that we go a little too far with the ‘soft heart’ routine, but that’s quibbling.
The romance…. As I was reading, I found myself caught up in Sepora’s story and at some point I realized that the two main characters were destined to get together and so I watched as author Banks developed this story-line and marveled at the pace and gentility in which the romance was revealed.
The trick here is that Banks shows us everything. She never tells us that Sepora is strong or that Tarik is kind or that their relationship is blossoming … she shows it to us. This is one of the first lessons beginning writers are taught and yet is one of the hardest to accomplish. Banks does it sublimely.
The book doesn’t entirely end because it holds on to a bit of a cliff-hanger for the next book. This is a tactic I do not appreciate (as readers of my blog may know). This always feels like a cheap trick by the publisher to get me to buy another book. A story needs to have a beginning, middle and an end to be a story. If there’s no end, we’ve been cheated of a story. For this, we lose some points.
I also had a little problem with the ‘ending’ because character actions and reactions didn’t seem to fit with what we had read through the previous 300+ pages. While I predicted what was going to happen, I did not predict the reactions to it because they felt so out of character.
Still, I really want to read more of this story because I so enjoyed Banks’ character, world-building, and story-telling.
Looking for a good book? Nemesis by Anna Banks is a well-told, exciting YA fantasy/romance that should be on the ‘must read’ list for all fans of the genres.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Anna Banks
series: Nemesis #1
publisher: Feiwel & Friends
hardcover, 359 pages