Raybearer

Narrated by Joniece Abbott-Pratt
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Pub Date 18 Aug 2020 | Archive Date 02 Sep 2020

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Description

The epic debut YA fantasy from an incredible new talent—perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi and Sabaa Tahir

Nothing is more important than loyalty. But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as the Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of Eleven. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But the Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

With extraordinary world-building and breathtaking prose, Raybearer is the story of loyalty, fate, and the lengths we’re willing to go for the ones we love.

The epic debut YA fantasy from an incredible new talent—perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi and Sabaa Tahir

Nothing is more important than loyalty. But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were...


A Note From the Publisher

Jordan Ifueko is a Nigerian American writer who grew up eating fried plantains while reading comic books under a blanket fort. She now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their collection of Black Panther Funko Pops.

Jordan Ifueko is a Nigerian American writer who grew up eating fried plantains while reading comic books under a blanket fort. She now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their collection of...


Advance Praise

“Jordan Ifueko creates a bold new world in her debut book.”

Seventeen


"Raybearer is an excellent and needed addition to diverse fantasy, and the writing and characters immediately captivated me.”

—BuzzFeed


“I love it when characters are faced with impossible choices. Even better, add magic. I was hooked from page one.”

—Electric Literature


“A fresh, phenomenal fantasy that begs readers to revel in its brilliant world.”

—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)


“Ifueko’s mesmerizing debut stuns as it weaves a tale of loyalty, fate, destiny, family, and revenge. Moreover, it places a dark skinned heroine front and center, who is beautiful and powerful, deadly and compassionate, and vulnerable and tough, giving YA literature more of the diverse representation teens need.”

Booklist (starred review)

“Jordan Ifueko creates a bold new world in her debut book.”

Seventeen


"Raybearer is an excellent and needed addition to diverse fantasy, and the writing and characters immediately captivated me.”

...


Available Editions

EDITION Audiobook, Unabridged
ISBN 9781094149226
PRICE $22.95 (USD)
DURATION 13 Hours

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (AUDIO)

Average rating from 145 members


Featured Reviews

Everything about this story left me utterly entranced. I can usually guess the ending or where things will go next. It is rare that a story keeps me guessing in the way that this one did. The main characters are so fully fleshed out that I'm certain readers will each have personal favorites. There are side characters whose names we rarely get, but I trust Ifueko enough at this point to believe that they might be in the next book. The world is both familiar and new to me. The prevalence of magic on every page and in so many ways made it so immersive and visible!
Jordan Ifueko is a gift to the YA fantasy community, and I cannot wait to see what comes next for Tarisai and her friends.

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*I received a digital copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review*

If able, I tend to jump back and forth between listening to and reading a book. With Raybearer, I found that I just wanted to listen to it more and more. Joniece Abbott-Pratt was such an incredible narrator. Due to a glitch with the app, I wasn't able to listen at my normal 1.25 speed. However, this was a blessing in disguise, since Abbott-Pratt's narration speed was perfect for the story. Her voice work was so incredible that I almost couldn't believe it was a single narrator.

As for the story, it was just as amazing. Raybearer follows Tarisai from youth to her teenage years as she learns more about the troubled past of both her land and her lineage. This book is filled with magic and takes inspiration from African folklore. I loved it to pieces and can't wait for the sequel.

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I have seen a lot of hype already surrounding this book and I'm so glad I was able to snag the audiobook from NetGalley. Also, yay for audiobooks on NetGalley because I go through so many from my library and I'm glad it's now an opition.

In the beginning we are introduced to Tarisai who has had a very interesting upbrining. She has always been searching for love because she never received it from her mother.

I really liked Tarisai as a character. There is a lot of development from her throughout the book as she tries to battle between what she wants and what her mother has cursed her to do. Life isn't always easy for her and it made her feel authentic and just very real.

Another thing I loved about her, and the other characters, were the bonds she created with them. She cares deeply for them and sometimes you didn't know how much until another character brought something to light and then it just made you feel so many things!

The Lady, her mother, was such a fascinating character from the beginning. There is a backstory for her and I really enjoyed getting to know what makes her tick. Even though she has done some questionable things, I can't say that I don't like her. She definitely went through some things and it's what shaped her to be who she is.

A couple other characters that are at the top of my list are Dayo, Woo in, Kierah, and Sanjeet. Each one has their special qualities that I love and help Tarisai become who she wants to be. Even if they can't understand her reasoning and may get upset, they still don't walk away.

Honestly, there really wasn't any characters that I disliked in this book. Some got more page time than others but each one brought something to the table.

The plot of this book is unique, refreshing, and lives you needing to continue the story without long breaks. There are interesting abilities from healing to reading someone's memories. The drama involves politics and rivalries amongst family. The world that this author created is just mesmerizing! From the beginning I wasn't sure where exactly the plot would go which is good because each new plot twist had me surprised. That ending is really intense and I will definitely need to read the second book to find out what happens next.

As for the audiobook aspect, it was nicely done!

It is done by one narrator but she changes her voice for the different characters. It made it a bit easier to figure out which was talking if it didn't mention their name.

There are also lyrics for different songs and it was actually sung instead of just spoken. I really liked that!

Overall, I enjoyed this book! It was such an exciting experience and I know that many readers will love this story.

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I have read RAYBEARER as well as listening to the audiobook. The audiobook lives up to the paperback!!!!! I loved it so much! The narrator's voice was perfect. Great intonation. Great rhythm. She really brought the book to life!

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Ifueko's fantastic tale is mesmerizing. You will be instantly enchanted her mysterious young heroine and her epic quest. Ifueko has entered my must-purchase list!

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Hello Gemmies! I have an exciting book review to share with you today. Please note: I received an audiobook ARC of this book (via NetGalley) from its publisher in exchange for an honest and fair review.

Raybearer is a debut YA fantasy by Jordan Ifueko. I was so excited to receive this one to review. I was expecting a sweeping African inspired epic fantasy full of magic and this did not disappoint! I cannot believe this is Jordan's first novel. I already need book two...stat! Raybearer pulls you in from the very first chapter. Let's start with the story. The plot was unexpected, fresh, and new. This is a YA novel but there are some very serious themes throughout like toppling patriarchal structures, child abuse, privilege, misogyny, and race and class inequality that take this novel to the next level. I found myself fully immersed in this vivid and impressive world. There are references to various races, creatures, religions, and magical belief systems but Jordan Ifueko managed to blend them all seamlessly. This is also an extremely well written character driven story with a diverse cast of characters that I found to be complex, dynamic, and relatable. I need more Tarisai and Sanjit stories in my life!

Raybearer is narrated by one person, Joniece Abbott-Pratt. Joniece is an absolute wonder! She does a great job keeping pace with the story, and making each character feel distinct and have their own personality. Joniece is also able to strike the right tone to make each scene feel appropriate. There are several main characters in this book and Joniece does a great job in differentiating her voice between each. If you are a fan of magic, epic fantasies, conspiracies, love and tragedy then go read this book! This gem published by Blackstone Publishing is set to release on August 18, 2020 and is available for pre-order from all major booksellers. I give Raybearer 5 out of 5 gems. I cannot wait for this story to be out in the world for all to read and enjoy. Happy Reading!

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Huge thanks to Netgalley, Blackstone Publishing, and Jordan Ifueko for providing me with a free review copy of this audiobook in exchange for an unbiased and impartial review.

Immediately I saw the cover of this book, I knew I couldn't resist it. The blurb made it all the more irresistible. Once I got the approval email, I downloaded the audiobook immediately and got lost in the beautiful and sometimes dangerous world of Aritsar. How couldn't I? There was so much to love and get lost in. The narrator, Joneice Abbott-Pratt, did a wonderful job and I just want to hug her and shower her with kisses. She killed the voices, accents, pronunciations, stories, and songs. She was just all-round perfect in her narration and that made the story so much more better.

Set in the world of Aritsar and spanning over many realms and kingdoms, we see the story unfold through Tarisai's eyes. Tarisai is our protagonist, and we follow her from childhood to adulthood, travelling through Aritsar, and engaging in so many adventures, with many internal and external battles. We are introduced to so many main and secondary characters that we can't help but fall in love with, or hate - there's hardly any in-between. Dayo, Sanjeet, Kirah, Mbali, and The Lady were some of my absolutely favorites, and of course Tarisai. There are so many secrets and puzzles and mysteries and questions, and everything unravels at the most magnificent pace. Tons of praise to the author - and this is a debut! I can't wait to read more of her amazing writing in future.

One of the best parts of this book, for me, is the infusion of West African culture (most especially Yoruba). As a Yoruba girl myself, I was really glad to see so much of my culture - words, names, clothing - sprinkled generously all over the book. As a dark-skinned girl, it meant so much to me to be reading a fantasy novel with a dark-skinned heroine that's so amazing! I love Tarisai very much, for a host of reasons you'll all discover when you read the book. The two points highlighted in this paragraph are some of the reasons I loved Children of Blood and Bone so much, so the blurb isn't wrong about this book being perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi.

I mentioned this earlier, but the world-building in this book is amazing - the realms, the travel, the history, the mythology, the lineage and genealogy, the creatures, the stories, the songs (kudos to the narrator AGAIN for her performance of the songs in this book) the council of 11, the Ray, honestly everything! So much thought went into creating this and the execution didn't disappoint.

I wholeheartedly recommend this amazing work of art to everyone, so be sure to grab your copy or get the audiobook when this book is released on the 18th of August.

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Jordan Ifueko's <em>Raybearer </em>is so much more than the book you initially expect it to be. The synopsis really leads you down a road that expects some very typical elements of a fantasy romance involving a character meant, in the beginning, to kill a target they fall in love with. In an astoundingly impressive way, <em>Raybearer </em>is an incredible story with many intermingling plot elements and commentaries that leaves you with one of the most poignant tales I've read in quite some time. This is the kind of novel that has you feeling changed in some ways. And I loved every minute of it.

<b>Threads of the story...</b>

Perhaps the most amazing thing about <em>Raybearer </em>is how it manages to realistically weave in a number of impressive commentaries without ever losing authenticity. By this, I mean that important life struggles and topics such as colonization, inequality of class and race, male-dominated power structures, racism, sexism, privilege, generational trauma, control through fear, and cultural genocide are all blended seamlessly into the work and never once does it feel contrived or preachy.

The complexities of the tale Ifueko is telling are brilliantly written in a way that precious few writers are capable of. She masterfully discusses each one through the eyes of a young woman, Tarisai, who enters the world naive and manipulated and leaves the novel a wisened and gallant legend. Tarisai's journey alone is brilliantly plotted. You learn alongside her as the events of her life lead to an adventure of truth-seeking and honor.

Put simply, <em>Raybearer</em> is not the fantasy love story I believed I was picking up, but instead an intricate and meaningful novel that fosters the development of knowledge and righteousness. The truth is that there is a lot to unpack from this novel and a great deal to learn from it all.

<b>What is an expert story without expert characters?</b>

Well, Ifueko has an impressively written story as far as plots go. And for a writer of her caliber, I find myself unsurprised to say that her characters were equally as impressive. I can't think of a single developed character in this novel who wasn't written brilliantly. No matter who it is you are introduced to, even side characters who barely spend any time in the story or exist as someone who is solely talked about, you are introduced to someone who feels so fleshed out that they could be a real person.

I'm honestly somewhat in awe of how impressed I am with the character development in this novel. And I could probably break down how wonderful I found Ekundayo, both his younger and older self. I could go on at length about the expert complexities of Sanjeet or the deeply fascinating Kirah. I could rave about the intricacies of The Lady, the Emperor, and the Council of 11.

But honestly?

Best you find out for yourself.

<b>The Narration</b>

Okay, so I listened to the audiobook for this one. And I'm incredibly grateful for that. The truth is that <em>Raybearer</em> is the kind of book where, if you do not already have an understanding of African culture, you really need to read it twice. I say this for a number of reasons, but the fact of the matter is that there are some pieces of this book that just <em>need</em> to be <em>heard</em>.

You see, the way Ifueko blends music and <em>sound</em> into her novel is perhaps the most impressive I have seen since I read <em>The Enchanted Sonata.</em> And that is not to say that these two books are comparable or should be compared, but rather that it is <em>incredibly</em> rare of me to have felt that a book was giving me <em>sounds</em>. I guarantee, had I not listened to this audiobook, the sheer brilliance of Ifueko's use of sound would have been utterly lost on me due to my lack of knowledge and understanding of African culture.

That said, I do also feel like this book needs to be read. I spent a decent amount of time listening to this audiobook imagining how the songs, the <em>sounds</em>, and even the spelling of names would translate had I simply picked up the book. I imagine I still would have absolutely adored everything about this novel, but I would have been <em>greatly</em> missing out on a piece to Tarisai's story that I currently consider <em>integral</em> to my experience reading it as a whole.

Joniece Abbott-Pratt did such an excellent job narrating <em>Raybearer</em>. I truly cannot imagine a better voice. And, at the end of the day, if you've not planned to pick up this novel already, I would <em>highly</em> recommend that you do.

<em>I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.</em>

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4.5 stars

It’s hard to put into words exactly how amazing this book was. Ifueko crafted such a diverse and interesting new fantasy world that was incredibly interesting to learn about and explore through Tarisai.

I have to applaud this story for constantly surprising me. When it began I thought I knew where it was going in the end and I was completely wrong. This story was complex and multi-faceted. It was a reminder that no person is completely good or evil, and it constantly challenged me to see beyond the surface to recognize the way that our pasts shape us, but how we are ultimately in charge of our destinies. I was very much taken on a journey through this book, and it was one wrought with surprises I couldn’t have anticipated at the beginning -largely because it was rich with characters that are -realistically- able to surprise us.

On that same note, I love that amidst this entire exciting story was an undercurrent of deep wisdom. There are numerous points in the book where I just wanted to pause and marinate over some of the wisdom Ifueko was communicating because it was truly full of thought-provoking material. The ideas this book communicated about destiny, leadership, love, and right and wrong were some of the best I’ve seen in YA literature. I really can’t express enough how well Ifueko blended a unique fantasy story with such deep truths that apply in our world today.

Because I can’t not include it, here are some of my favourite quotes:

“You want to follow your heart? ...Should a fool follow his heart? A thief? A murderer? Your heart is not your friend unless you know who you truly are.”

“Leadership isn’t good or evil, it’s what you choose to do with it.”

“Only one thing is more powerful than a wish, and that is a purpose.”

I will say however, the one things with this story that I had trouble with was the ending. While it said a great deal about Tarisai’s character, and set up the next book (which I am quite excited for) very well, the whole situation with Songland felt like too much of a secondary detail throughout the book for it to have been so pivotal by the end. It’s not that I didn’t like the ending, but I didn’t love it mostly because it felt a little like it came from left field. Outside of that though, amazing book all the way through!

Last but not least, I feel incredibly lucky to have gotten an audio copy of this book rather than a readable one. I am amazed that one narrator could do such justice to this story. If I didn’t know any better I would have thought there were multiple readers because she truly brought the story to life. Not only did each of the characters have their own unique voices, but the story itself had a quality I would have completely missed if I had just read it. From the songs that were sung to the drum beats, and all the little details in between, the audiobook helped me to feel like I was right there beside Tarisai the whole time. This is honestly one of those books that -I believe- are even better listened to than read because it brings an already great story to life.

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I already read the physical arc so it was nice to have a refresher and listen to the audiobook and see if it elicits the same feelings. I found the audiobook did a good job bringing this book to life. And I'm so glad that despite being African inspired the narrator didn't try to put on any weird fake accents like I've become so accustom to in audiobooks. Tarisa's tale is just the perfect pace and the right blend of magic to keep you entertained.

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This book is among the best in the YA African fantasy genre!

Tarisai's gift of sight makes her special but also isolated. She can see memories in anything she touches. She lives locked away in from the world and only see's her mom a few times a year. When she finally gets the opportunity to leave the house, it is with the condition that she becomes a member of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. Her journey begins with the Council of 11 and her mother's past.

Tarisai is a likable character who readers get a good understanding of. The romance is mild but entertaining. The story features a large cast of characters with varied plots. There were a lot of moving parts in this book but it comes together in the end. Aging with the characters in the story allowed readers to develop more of an emotional bond to the story.

The plot moves moderately, glazing over the minor details and leaving time to developed the plot of larger events. The dialogue between characters is revealing and contributes to the reader's perception of characters. The African aspects of the fantasy are seamlessly woven into the plot without seeming forced or excessive. While the twists and reveals were predictable, they were handled well and drew on several perspectives.

I would readily recommend this story to readers interested in a refreshing fantasy. I'm looking forward to the next book!

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“You don’t have to help me change the world. But you mark my words; when I get going, this world will change. And you can be a part of that...or you can stand back and watch.”

Raybearer is the first book in its series and the first book by Jordan Ifueko. Blending a high fantasy with afrofuturism, Ifueko tells the story of a sixteen-year-old girl named Tarisai. Growing up secluded from the rest of her nation, Tarisai wants nothing more than to have friends and spend time with her mother, The Lady. One day, The Lady sends her to Oluwan city to vie for a position on the prince’s council, earn his trust, and ultimately assassinate him. The longer Tarisai is away from her realm and The Lady, the more she realizes that she doesn’t want to kill the prince; instead, she wants nothing more than to be friends with those she has grown close to. Bound by her mother’s wish, Tarisai must fight to follow her own path and create her own destiny.

Raybearer is narrated by Joniece Abbott-Pratt. Joniece does an amazing job portraying the wide variety of characters and her vocal versatility brings the characters to life. With her engrossing, youthful depictions, listeners will be drawn into Ifueko’s story.

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Tarisai has been raised in isolation with only tutors and servants to guide her. She spent her childhood learning the arts required to be a candidate for the Crown Prince's Council of Eleven and longing for her often absent, aloof, and enigmatic mother, the Lady. Craving the warmth of family that she has never known, she is excited and afraid to try for the Council; however, she is horrified to learn that she has been implanted with an inescapable command to kill the Prince.

Raybearer is absolutely magnificent young-adult, high fantasy. The worldbuilding is incredible, and the novel weaves themes of found family, complex mother-daughter relationships, and the dangers of power around a compelling plot. Jordan Ifueko's wonderful storytelling is seasoned and complemented by Joniece Abbot-Pratt's brilliant narration. I was completely enthralled and cannot wait for the sequel.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via a NetGalley giveaway. Many thanks to all involved in providing me with this opportunity.

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The need for unconditional love and acceptance is at the heart of this story. Tarisai is a girl created for a specific purpose by her mother, otherwise known in this world as, The Lady. Tarisai grows up never feeling unconditional love rather, The Lady visits once a year and keeps her child at a distance to be raised instead by staff. Though the reader learns the reason for this later in the book, it never felt justified to me, more like the agenda of a person on a mission and choosing to sacrifice a relationship with a child for revenge.
Tarisai is shaped by her upbringing and I like how the author keeps her behavior consistent throughout the narrative. I never felt like Tarisai suddenly became someone else, no, she was and is the person her mother helped form. This story, to me, feels like an epic fantasy and that's what we see in the beginning. The world building is vast and the magic system is intricate, I never felt lost though, it's just another facet of the world.
The reader follows along as Tarisai goes from childhood to older teen, becomes a chosen one, counsel member, and gains a new understanding about her power. The character of Tarisai grows and becomes more insightful, shifting her perspective.
Overall, I enjoyed my time in this world and am looking forward to continuing on in the next book. I did listen to this on audio and loved the sounds and songs included in the story. The audio adds a little more depth to this immersive story. I would recommend this to anyone who loves strong world building and well developed, complicated characters. This book will take you on a ride. :)

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Disclaimer: I received this audiobook from Macmillan Audio. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Raybearer

Author: Jordan Ifuenko

Book Series: Raybearer Book 1

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: lesbian side character, asexual and bisexual character, African inspired

Recommended For...: fantasy, epic fantasy, LGBT+

Publication Date: August 18, 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy

Recommended Age: 16+ (sex mention, violence, abuse, sexism, suicide, racism likeness, gore, sexual content)

Publisher: Amulet Books

Pages: 400

Synopsis: Nothing is more important than loyalty.
But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

Review: I really loved this book! The magic system was unique and so well written and described. The author did well with the characters and the world building. The book was rich with descriptions and I could listen to this audiobook on repeat without getting tired of it. They did well to find a narrator who accurately portrayed what I thought the MC sounded like. I also loved the commentary on the criminal justice system and how corrupt and unfair it can become and is in some countries.

The only part I didn't like is that I thought the relationship with two characters, one a demon kinda, was a bit weird with what I think the age difference is (maybe it's not a bad age difference. It's hard to flip back through an audiobook. I do know he's a child when he became part of counsel but idk how long ago that was). The audiobook also had a glitch on Chapter 23 so I won't know what's in that chapter until I get another version of the book.

Verdict: An excellent book! I loved it!

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Thanks NetGalley for this Advanced Copy of the Audiobook for Raybearer. I've already commented on the beauty of the world building and amazing character development in a previous review. The narrator for this audiobook was pretty good. Of course, I would've enjoyed a full cast, however her ability to truly give each character their own unique voice was good. She did bring a bit more to an already incredible story. It was great having a clear pronunciation of some of the names, that really helped pull the story together for me, as well as the singing of the songs/chants. All in all, this was a beautiful production.

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This was easily a 20/20 read for me! I could not fault anything. The world building is so expansive and so complex it, was a joy to get totally immersed in it. The world is opened up to us through stories, and recounting of histories of the people/tribes and they are so interesting in themselves that it does not feel like info dumping at all. From the first moment where were are introduced to little Tarisai, a little girl given everything she could possibly need. I had to know. What was she being so carefully being prepared for? and why was she deliberately kept away from the rest of the world? And this was even before the magic system was introduced! In the empire of Aritsar, the emperor rules the empire with the aid of his Council of Eleven, who are joined emotionally and telepathically through the Ray. These eleven members are chosen when an emperor is still a child as one of the conditions for the ray to work is that they must love their future king unconditionally, even giving up their own life for his. Seeing Tarisai and other potential candidates grow up together and form a family of was beautiful, I had no idea I would enjoy the found family trope as much as I did. As Tarisai grows up, finally finding the family and sense of belonging she has craved all her life, The tension and the sense of impending doom is strong. For like Tarisai we know the time for her to fulfil the wish of her mother draws closer and there is absolutely no way to get out of it. Ifueko does such an effective job I had no idea which direction she would take. I also appreciated the author did not go down the typical YA route of a love triangle. All the relationships were so beautifully developed and came about so organically, that it was easy to believe them. All the morally grey characters were great too.
This story that could have easily got bogged down in its own complexity is instead brought to vivid clarity by Ifueko's wonderful writing style, it flows effortlessly and in such a way as to make you think the story was going one way and then suddenly a new twist is introduced or a hidden truth is uncovered and then suddenly you are forced to question what was really going on. I found it wildly imaginative, the world that Ifueko lays out before us, is expansive and complex and full of interesting myths and lores that I feel there could be a book on just the history of the land alone. And I would love to read it.
The narrator Joniece Abbott-Pratthas did an amazing job on the audio of Raybearer , her cadence and articulation was perfection. The emotions she was able to convey brought the characters to life and hightened my enjoyment ten fold. I highly recommend the audiobook.

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I. AM. SPEECHLESS.

I rarely listen to fantasy books on audio - I can’t, with some many different and new character, words and pronunciations to learn and remember - it becomes hard to concentrate while listening to the audiobook a whole new level of superpower.

So while I was wary of reading the audiobook; the absolute love this book has been receiving had me overcoming my own apprehensions and picked it up.

And to be honest; IT WAS BEST FREAKING DECISION I EVER MADE.

Raybearer is a stunning fantasy debut that will keep your attention right from the start till the end - even though more than half of the book is a slow world building; a world that is breathtaking in its originality and expression!

It seems obvious that Iflueko has taken inspiration from reality; but she has made this world her own and owned it absolutely!

Tarisai, a young girl has been bought up in isolation - with only visits of The Lady to look forward to; considering the fact that the servants employed to teach her everything; and I do mean everything, about the different realms, aren’t EXACTLY her friends. When she finds out that she has been groomed and brought up to become part of the 11 Council Members of the Crown Prince of Aritsar.

While I would DEARLY LOVE to ramble on and on about the intriguing storyline; wonderful characters and the plot that would keep you hooked, I won’t, because I was told that I need to go in blind and trust me, so do you! It so dearly and surely worth it!

A beautiful, absolutely heartwarming fantasy novel about friendship, found family and a stunning world building with a hint of romance that will make your soul happy - Raybearer is a beautiful diverse fantasy novel, the first in what looks to be a series *fingers crossed* - and since I just read that there would be a sequel, because *THAT* ending had me holding my breath, I am literally on pins and needles to know EXACTLY where the author takes my babies to!

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I received an ARC of Raybearer (print and audiobook) from NetGalley. I enjoyed this fantasy book. The characters were all well developed and had depth. The story was interesting and complex. I felt like I was transported to Ifueko's amazing, complex , West African inspired world. Raybearer touches on the topics of roles of women in society, gender roles, poverty, loyalty, and morality. I highly recommend this book. I will be purchasing it for our library. I loved the narrator for this audiobook. I think she added a enhanced the story.

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I’m very cautious when it comes to hyped books because we’ve all stepped into the trap of expecting the world of a novel, only to end up disappointed that it doesn’t deliver what was promised. In the case of Raybearer I needn’t have worried. The hype machine worked pretty hard to promote this book but I am so happy to report that Ifueko’s debut novel not only does what it says but surpassed all my expectations.

RAYBEARER
by Jordan Ifueko

Published: Amulet Books, 2020
eBook: 368 pages
Audiobook: 13 hours 48 minutes
Series: Raybearer #1
My rating: 8/10

Opening line: I shouldn’t have been surprised that fairies exist.

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One of the gripes I have with many YA books that end up falling flat for me is that they only have one thing – one theme, one issue, on idea to set them apart – that is supposed to carry the whole story. Say, for example, the protagonist has a special power, and that’s all there is to make her interesting. Raybearer is the exact opposite of that, which is probably why I liked this book so much. There are so many ideas here and they all come together beautifully to create a fascinating world peopled with complex characters – what more can I want from YA, really?

Tarisai grows up in a magically hidden away house where she is mostly left alone by her mother, The Lady. She longs for family and love but the servants won’t even touch her because of her gift of reading and even taking away memories. This so-called Hallow is why The Lady sends Tarisai off to the capital in order to compete with other children to become one of the Crown Prince’s Council of Eleven. This Council is a group of eleven people, each with a Hallow, who are connected to the Prince and to each other via the Ray – a magical bond closer than blood. If they are too far from each other, they feel pain; they can telepathically communicate, they can share their thoughts and feelings and each Council member also provides a unique magical protection for the Prince. Once the Council is fully anointed, the Prince cannot be killed by anyone except a member of that council.
There are so many great ideas in that premise alone that it would have been enough for a great story, but Jordan Ifueko doesn’t stop there. The world of Aritsar has even more to offer, both in terms of politics, lore, songs, and history, that there is always something new to discover.

What really makes this book shine, though, are the characters. Tarisai is a great protagonist, not because she is flawless by any means, but because she is made of conflicts. The Lady compelled her to become a Council member and to kill the Prince. But Tarisai actually grows to love Prince Dayo like a brother and wants to do everything in her power to protect him. Instead of just bemoaning her fate, though, she puts her brain to it and searches for ways around her curse. Her cleverness, her kindness, her love for Dayo and their friends are what made Tarisai so lovable.
Many YA books also tend to use character development solely only on the protagonist and leave the side characters almost blank. Maybe they get one character trait each, but that’s it. In Raybearer, we don’t get to know every single member of the Council very well but instead focus on a select few who are shown to be layered, believable people with dreams and feelings of their own. I thought this was a great decision on the author’s (or editor’s?) part. Tarisai’s best friend Kirah felt like a real person and the girls’ friendship was simply beautiful. Even more beautiful was Tarisai’s relationship to Sanjeet and how their bond slowly grows over time. Every time these two had an interaction, it warmed my heart!

But wait, this book isn’t done yet! There is also a plot and it packs a punch. Do you know those books that start out as one thing and then slowly peel away layers and layers to reveal that the world is so much bigger than you thought, that there are mysteries within mysteries? Yeah, I love that kind of book, and Raybearer absolutely delivered on that part. I thought I was going to read about a girl destined to kill a boy she loved and how she fights against that compulsion. And while I did get to read about that, there was so much more. We learn about different cultures and traditions, about how the magic in this world works and what the implications are, about Raybearers past and present, and about why The Lady kept Tarisai hidden away for so long only to send her on a cruel mission. There’s inequality in the world that needs fixing, there are secrets that want to be revealed, friendships that want to be saved, and in the middle of it all a young girl yearning for a family, for a place to belong.

I think the first moment when I realized this wouldn’t just be a good book but a great one was when Tarisai takes a certain action at about a third into the book. This action – I’m being vague for fear of spoilers – could just as easily have been the resolution to the whole story, had this been a simpler, less well thought-out YA book. The fact that she did what she did so early on in the story made me realize that Jordan Ifueko has a lot more to tell and doesn’t have to hold back her ideas. And then she does the same thing again, later in the book. I thought I knew what kind of quest I was on with Tarisai, Sanjeet, Kirah, and Dayo, but it turns out, things go even deeper than that. We get to see different parts of the Kingdom, meet other cultures, learn about the land’s history, and watch Tarisai grow up through all of it.

In case you haven’t guessed it yet, I have endless amounts of love for this book! Because the last thing that could have ruined it is the writing, and the writing happened to be fantastic. There is nothing particularly flowery about the language, but I adored how Ifueko added songs and drum sounds into the story. What sealed it for me was the way she described her characters interacting. It could have been so easy to turn Dayo into Tarisai’s love interest (the destined to kill the one you love trope is a trope for a reason, after all), but instead, the two are just incredibly close friends and – at least for me – that bond felt even closer than a romatic relationship could have. Whether it’s Tarisai and Sanjeet or Tarisai and Kirah, or even Tarisai and one of the tutors teaching the new Council, the author always managed to not just convey information thorugh her writing but to also add an emotional layer. No conversation is simply an exchange of words.

As for the ending… well, that was something else! Not only do a LOT of things happen, but the ending also somehow manages to satisfyingly finish the main arc of the story while setting up the story for the sequel. And, boy, what a setup it is!

I listened to this on audio, so I have to mention the narrator (and actress) Joniece Abbott-Pratt. What a great job she has done of bringing Ifueko’s brilliant characters to life. I was especially impressed with how she showed the characters at different ages while still keeping them distinct from each other. She also actually sang the songs in this book which added a lot of atmosphere. I’m still a bit annoyed that I couldn’t access my NetGalley copy of the audiobook, but in retrospect, I don’t begrudge the book (or the author, or the narrator) the Audible credit it cost me to buy my own copy. And this way, I can re-listen to the book when the sequel comes out.

MY RATING: 8/10 – Excellent!

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This is a wonderful fantasy novel with fascinating and original ideas quite unlike anything I've read before. It tells the story of Tarisai, a young girl who has been raised in isolation by the mysterious Lady. Sent to the capital to win a place on the council of 11, she enters into a world more dangerous than she imagined. I thought that conceptually, this book was fabulous. The notion of the Raybearer and the council members being forever joined by the Ray is really interesting and I thought that Ifueko did a great job of demonstrating the importance of this bond. I also thought that the world building here was superb. The empire of Aritsar was vibrant and vivid in its detail, and the customs of each individual land within the empire slowly being subsumed by it, felt authentic and spoke to a history of colonialism in a new and unique way. The narration of the audiobook was also excellent, given that there is a musical quality to a lot of the rituals described and I think that the narrator did a great job of bringing the story to life. Overall, I found this to be a compelling and enjoyable read and will eagerly await the next instalment.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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*I received an audiobook ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.*

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko is such a fantastic book! I had the pleasure of listening to the audiobook, which is narrated by Joniece Abbott-Pratt. The narrator was a perfect match for this book and was great at bringing the different characters to life.

Raybearer is about Tarisai, who is essentially born so she can kill the Crown Prince of Aritsar. Tarisai’s mother is known only as The Lady, and she has a grudge with the royal family of Aritsar. The Lady makes a wish that compels Tarisai to kill the Prince. Tar has to go to Aritsar and compete to join the Prince’s council so she can get close enough to complete the wish. The only problem is Tarisai doesn’t want to be her mother’s pawn. In fact she loves the new family she has found and decides to do whatever it takes to protect them.

This is a fabulous first installment in what is sure to be highly successful series. Ifueko is a master at world building and character development. This is definitely a book you can get lost in as it will easily transport you into its world.

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One of the easiest 5 stars I gave in 2020.

Raybearer is such a marvelous fantasy novel. This story is so complex and magical. The characters are all so well written and developed and I loved all of them. This isn't about heroes and villains, all the characters are so much more complex than that, there are a lot of morally grey characters, there are also some adorable pure souls than you want to protect at all cost. None of them is defined by just one thing, they're warriors, lovers, protectors, rulers.
And the world building was just as wonderful. I'm all about good world building and Ifueko definitely delivered on that part. The history and culture of the universe is so rich and so well explained. When I discover a fictional universe I love learning everything about it, all the history, all the legends, all the secrets, and Raybearer gives you all of that.

I just adored that book so much and I'm so excited for the next one.

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This is one of the best fantasy stories I've listened to in a long time. Seriously! what a ride! this isn't a standard review but I'm still in awe of this book and really don't know how to put it all into.
World building 10/10
Character and plot 10/10
This book sucked me in from page 1. I highly recommend. Perfect done! Thank you, Harry N. Abrams & netgalley for this review copy.

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Raybearer came as a ray of surprise amidst a streak of disappointing reads last month and completely bowled me over. I wasn’t aware of this book’s existence till I saw it’s ALC on offer and picked it up on a whim. I am happy to say it paid off, big time!
Tarisai has been brought up in isolation by the mysterious Lady and is being trained to get chosen as one of the 11 council members for the Crown Prince of Aritsar. As soon as she is accepted she is bound by a wish to obey the Lady’s command and murder the prince. Will Tarisai be forced to obey the Lady’s command or will she be able to assert her own will? Read to find out 😉
I have to commend the narrator, Joniece Abbott-Pratt becuase her narration was what got me hooked to the story from the very first chapter. Tarisai came alive from the very first line and burrowed herself in a corner of my heart from the very beginning. After getting introduced to Ekundayo and Sanjeet, there was no turning back, I was completely invested!!!
I loved how the author, brings Aritsar and the multiple realms including the underworld, their customs and culture to life using songs and the folklores. I would highly recommend listening to the audiobook just for these songs!!! I kept humming them to myself for days after finishing the book. The world building is so lush and vibrant that I was completely transported. The magic system was also unique. How the Ray connects the members of the council and the scope of the relationship dynamics it provides has me very excited for the future instalments in this series.
But the biggest highlight and what I loved most about this book are the characters, their friendships and the found family trope! They kept surprising me because just as I think it’s going to get tropey with a love triangle or moving towards a predictable plot, it turns around and astounds me with a fresh new take. Tarisai and Sanjeet and Dayo have my whole heart!!! The Lady was another intriguing character who’s story I wouldn’t mind getting to read as a seperate book.
Overall this is the debut of the year for me and
I highly highly recommend investing in this series.
Rating: 5 stars

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Thank you Black Stone Publishing and Black Stone Audiobooks for this review copy of Raybearer. Please note I had to wait for the book to be released as the audiobook on NetGalley echoed and I was not able to read or listen.

I absolutely loved this book! What a unique premise! When reading the description you are like "okay wow looks like another girl set to kill the prince who falls in love and blah blah blah blah" but that is such a vague idea of this beautifully woven story.

The story started out very character-driven for me, which is not something I am complaining about. The characters are fleshed out and are complicated and unique. It is one of those stories where each character helps the other grow, but I don't believe that one character was placed just for growth of another; they all have a reason to be there. Then about half way through the book the plot shows its face and your mind is just... blown. I honestly don't know what else to say about that without spoiling what happens.

We have Dayo, who is the prince and has a secret all of his own and is just all smiles. Kirah who is the mothering friend (probably because of her hollow [Hollows are special gifts they are born with]) and is just a strong, female character to love. Then there is Sanjeet who is hard on the outside and soft and warm on the inside (honestly my favorite kind of character). I believe all of the characters, or at least most, were black in this book too which is what the world needs right now : #ownvoice black characters written by black authors!

And the world is rich with history and culture and magic! You get some backstories, you learn more about the magic system including the Raybearer's magic. I never once felt overwhelmed with information because the author reminds you of the history or the culture when it is important and you go "OH YEAH THAT WOW" and it's like a light-bulb went on lol.

Seriously loved this book. I cannot wait to see the journey of the next book. Didn't leave you an exact cliffhanger, but you know the next book is going to be epic as heck! Gah, I'm going to go think on this book for the rest of my life now... it's just so pure...

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This is a solid start to a promising series. Tarisai has been raised by her mother, the Lady, in isolation. People have not allowed to touch her because of her hallow, a special power that she was born with. Tar's hallow is that she can see people's memories.

Then, without explanation, Tarisai is sent to the capital to try to become one of the Crown Prince's council of eleven. The catch? She has to love him and be anointed in order to be on the council. And she does love him. The next catch? Her mother has commanded her through a wish she cannot ignore to kill the prince.

This is atmospheric. It is epic. It is the first in a series that will, I'm sure, be as wondrous and imaginative as this.

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So this is my favorite African based fantasy that I have read so far. I loved this book right from the beginning. There were a couple of times that I started to feel "ok, let's move this along" but it would very quickly change direction - and sometimes in a way I hadn't predicted. Overall - great and I'll be recommending it!

Audibook part - this was a GOOD audiobook. Narrator was great - different character voices were unique and the accents were good. It could have been a tad faster I will say - for a book not that long, the audiobook was quite long. I ended up speeding it up - not much just 1.25 but that's my one note.

*spoiler alert* I really enjoyed how there was not a) a love triangle that would have been very obvious and b) that the characters (hardly) ever doubt Tarisai's loyalty and how the prince really listened and trusted Tarisai the entire time.

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"Monsters were nothing. The true terrors were people like me—the ones who saw suffering, who heard the screams of a hundred generations echoing for miles around them—and still did nothing."

To be honest, I have no idea what this is about when I requested an audiobook from NetGalley to go along with a Kindle preorder I received from a generous friend.

Fast forward to now that I am in awe after devouring this refreshing debut. Abridged synopsis for the book says this is about a child raised to serve on a council, advise the crowned prince, and assassinate him. With that, I immediately boarded up the Raybearer ship and started the journey.

What I liked:

Worldbuilding
The establishment of Aritsar as this peaceful and united land ruled by one emperor, the Raybearer, was just the surface of the creatively woven world in this book. The way Jordan Ifueko successfully written a convincing setting with internal history of conflict and impending war against the Abikus (monsters from the underworld) paired with mysterious territories in the name of Songland all fitted to form the magical place that contributed largely to the storyline.

Starting with Tarisai's caged days at the Bhekina House where she was groomed until the right age came for her to enter the test in which future council of Aritsar will be selected to join the crowned prince, Ekundayo Kunleo - until the carefree times with the anointed Council at the Children's Palace and Yorua Keep to finally unveiling the bigger picture when the council had to visit the eleven areas of Aritsar, and Songland - all this places were vividly painted with words and the image my mind created was native and picturesque.

The tropes
New found family only works if the story of the main characters is penned as the casted out one or the Chosen one and this complemented Tarisai's story right from the start. I really enjoyed the selection of council and how the history was interlaced with the introduction of each Anointed Ones.

Squad story is also a huge bait for me. I love reading stories focusing on a band of misfits, or selected team and the Anointed Ones fascinated me and I can't wait to read more of their adventures especially in the next books.

The Chosen Ones may be a cliché when it comes to fantasy but the story of Tarisai is a refreshing take on this trope. I didn't get bored with her story because the plot just keeps on giving.

The characters
Oh my god, how do I start?
Tarisai easily secured a spot as one of my favorite fictional characters. The way Jordan Ifueko created her as an MC that is groomed to be an assassin who will end the rulers' lineage with an innocent personality and ending up discovering her own purpose by balancing both her roles as The Lady's child and the hope of Aritsar and Songland. Tarisai is not the perfect badass character but her showing her own doubts and vulnerabilities only made her character more relatable.

Dayo is an amazing support character for Tarisai. He not only managed to win the hearts of his anointed council but he also stood up for what is right for his constituents. Though it's never not obvious that Dayo and Tar were pitted as romantic interests, I love how understanding and more of an old soul his character is and I'm looking forward to seeing how the crowned prince will grow, especially with the unveiling of his orientation and preference.

Sanjeet - AHHHHHHHHHHH! if I'll be given a chance to hug one character from this book - that'll be him. I just love his character so much and the way he cared for our Empress Tarisai is on a different level of affection. Petition to not change his character and let him be Tar's constant.

Honorable mentions are Kirah, Woo In, Kathleen, Melu, and of course, the one who gave me questions and let me cloud my judgment - The Lady.

The plot
Do not start this book if you're not in the mood to read a fantasy book because I'm sure you'll either get overwhelmed or you won't enjoy the storyline.
I read the first part earlier when I still have no audiobook but I wasn't that committed so I put it off first and decided to read it again during this long weekend and alas, my mood reader self devoured this amazing debut. In my opinion, this book gives off vibe from ATLA, The Lion King, and COBAB with a refreshing take on colonialism, diversity, marginalized people (and discrimination), how we should always be hope for our future generation.

RATING: 5stars

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Dynamic voice actor who shows incredible range of dynamism with each character. Well executed story with visual embellishments making themselves clear throughout the tale.

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Amazing! Full of adventure, emotion, relationships, and self-discovery. Seeing little of her mother throughout her childhood, Tarisai was raised by tutors to compete for a place on the crown prince’s council. If she succeeds, she will be joined with the prince and the other council members by the magical bond of the Ray. Before she leaves for the capitol, her mother commands her to kill the crown prince once she is anointed. Tarisai is determined to find another way.

The narration was just wonderful!

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My love letter to Raybearer and Jordan Ifueko:
First I want to say thank you for writing a book that throws tropes on their side; even when a trope is present, it is not the standard, Jordan takes it and makes it her own. Each time I thought I knew what was going to happen (because it *always* happens this way in YA books) I sat there dumbfounded because it didn't! Oh god I loved this; I loved being completely surprised by what happened in this beautiful book.

I listened to the audio read by Joniece Abbott-Pratt thanks to NetGalley and the Publisher, and I am still hearing their voice in my head. I still hear inflections, accents, pain, joy, and every emotion you can imagine.

Raybearer is a beautiful book that everyone should read, listen to, and just immerse themself into.

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One of my fav fantasy books I’ve read of this year for sure!!

The whole world, the characters, the magic system was something so fresh and new (which I love to see as sometimes it can get repetitive In fantasy books.) I loved how fast paced it was and I couldn’t stop flying through it I just couldn’t stop!!

I’m very excited for the sequel and can’t wait where this story will go

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Raybearer is a new own voices high-fantasy novel by Jordan Ifueko, audiobook narrated by Joniece Abbott-Pratt, with cover art by Charles Chaisson. Published by Amulet Books with audio publication by Blackstone Publishing. Tarisai lives a very sheltered life in her home of Swana, one of Aritsar’s 12 realms. Growing up with an absent mother known only as The Lady, Tarisai spends her childhood in training to become a member of Crowned Prince Ekundayo’s (Dayo) anointed Council and then, kill him.

From the moment Raybearer begins, it is a gorgeous, fully-realized world full of magic, politics, and mythical beings. The people of Raybearer‘s world have the potential to be born with Hollows, magical abilities such as Tarisai’s power to see people and objects’ memories, or temporarily take them away. The king and prince of Aritsar are also born with a Hollow passed down through their lineage. Their Hollow, the Ray, allows them to anoint 11 others to his council, one from each of Aritsar’s realms. Anointment means sharing a lifelong bond through which each of the 11 and the royal share their emotions, can communicate telepathically, and, in order to stave off Council Sickness, must remain in close physical proximity to at least one other council member at all times.

The member of the royal lineage is born with an immunity to one of the 12 types of death and, for each council member he anoints, he gains one more immunity. Eventually, only old age and betrayal from a council member can kill the royal. To anoint somebody though, that person must love the prince. It is through this shared love among the council and prince that all of Aritsar is ruled and all of Raybearer‘s deep, powerful themes bear fruit.

Raybearer illustrates over and over throughout the book that love can take any number of forms. In fact, the typical sexual/romantic love one would expect between a young adult novel’s two main characters is rendered null early in the story in a scene not completely unproblematic in the language employed. Nonetheless, Tarisai and Dayo’s relationship is much more akin to that of siblings in a found family-esque scenario. Their relationship is rich and the circumstances that bring them together, and threaten to tear them apart, amplify the relationship by full orders of magnitude.

Tarisai and her other council siblings exhibit romantic relationships, best friendships, and other kinds of love just as well. They never feel forced or overly tropey. Many of the relationships, romantic or otherwise, enjoy excellent slow-burn, will they/won’t they natures. Ifueko does well balancing the motivations for the growth of the story’s relationships. Whether growth is egged on by the follies of teenagedom, the allure of power, or Raybearer‘s plot developments, none ever outweighs the others to the point of cliché.

It would be unfair to give away too much detail about Raybearer‘s plot, but know that it is the best I have read so far in 2020. While some aspects may be predictable early on, there is always a slight twist to a thread’s resolution that is simultaneously going to make you say “wow, I totally knew it,” and “oh my god YES!”

Besides excellent characters, relationships, plot, and motivations, the world Raybearer builds is wonderfully alive. Each of Aritsar’s realms and the lands of other peoples beyond the kingdom is distinct and full of life. While not every realm gets a full treatment of imagery and exploration, they nearly all receive personality. Based mostly on West-African and Central and South Asian cultures and locales, Raybearer stands apart from so many of its monolithic fantasy brethren.

I especially love how music and drums are essential to Artisar’s culture. The entirety of Raybearer is laden with myths, religion, and culture, but the music stands out to me the most. It is perhaps thanks to audiobook narrator Joniece Abbott-Pratt, but every song and drum beat she sings fills the story with more life.

Culture, religion, and myths also play a central role in Raybearer as the novel addresses themes including imperialism, patriarchy, and finding one’s purpose. The way the book addresses these themes through Tarisai’s first-person view as she comes to grips with them herself makes the reader especially empathetic, even if the world beyond her rose-colored view is more clearly tainted to us from the onset.

Raybearer is an amazing new story in a unique, vibrant world. It is filled with excellent characters whose relationships and types of love break the typical YA mold enough to be quite fresh while still coloring within the lines of what YA readers are looking for. While addressing imperialism, patriarchy, and other themes intimate to author Jordan Ifueko’s personal and cultural experience, the novel weaves together an entirely well-imagined world full of myth, culture, religion, and magic.

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*I received an audio ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

All I can say is WOW! This book takes you on a true journey as you watch Tarisai grow up and learn the ways of her world and I loved every minute of it. It has been so long since I've given out a five star and I'm so glad it was to this book.

As I received an audiobook for review, some notes on the audiobook. I really enjoyed the process of listening to it. It's narrated by Joniece Abbott-Pratt who I think did a very good job of bringing the characters to life. I was able to differentiate between the characters through her use of different voices and accents, and there were a few songs included in the story which were actually sung through which was nice.

Raybearer takes so many of the complexities of life and explores them through this wonderfully crafted fantasy world.

Characters: Watching Tarisai grow up was truly fascinating. Because this book takes place over such a long period of time you really get to watch her grow and become her own person. I thought the romance was really cute and believable. It's not quite what you expect going into the book and I appreciated that. You also fall in love with Tarisai's friends, Dayo, Sanjeet, and Kirah. I feel like we really got to know them both through their relationship with Tarisai and how they are outside of her.

This book also does a good job of humanizing the villain, The Lady, it does a good job of showing how she became who she did while not excusing her actions in my opinion. This also leads to the theme of coming to terms with having an abusive parent and the complicated feelings that come when you're the child in that situation. You love your parents because they are what you know, but you know that they haven't treated you properly and it's hard to realize that.

Plot: Speaking of themes, this book has a lot of them. This book also discusses general trauma, systemic oppression, and the trouble with assimilation. A passage that sticks out to me where Tarisai figures out why certain groups do worse on testing was such a brilliant and casual way to point out how systemic oppression works and I love that for YA readers. I keep mentioning that this book brings you on a journey because it really does, the plot has just enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes. You're constantly wanting to know how what will happen next.

World and writing: This world was very large and expansive, with various culturally distinct realms which were generally well described and I thought the writing was good at showing that. The descriptions really made you feel as if you were there. The magic system of the world, especially the use of the Ray was very interesting, unique, and well explained. We get some history lessons on the history of the world and those also seemed well thought out and were very interesting to me.

My only disappointment doesn't even have anything to do with this book or it's storytelling specifically. It's just that I went into this expecting a standalone book, and didn't realize it probably wasn't until the very end, so I'm a bit sad that it's not. I obviously can't judge the next book before it even has a public title, and having loved this book so much I'm cautiously excited, but as a person who's really on the lookout for standalone fantasies I was little disappointed by the cliffhanger.

Overall I really loved this book, if you're looking for an intricate high fantasy with an all Black cast this is the book for you.

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OK I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH AAAH!!

Raybearer totally stole my heart and fixed it and I'm in love. 🥺 I went into the book knowing nothing about the plot and I think that is why I was more surprised too.

The plot is one of the best parts about the book. It is so complex and layered, there is literally no point when you feel bored in the book. Every single page is filed with intrigue and singing interesting, keeping you hooked. I loved the world building. What made me swoon the most was the fact that it wasn't a straightforward YA - there were so many twists and turns and secrets that you don't really see coming. The author takes you back and forth in the story, keeping you in a loop of guessing and bombarding with badass secrets! Loved that 😍

Coming to the characters, my god 😭 I loved Tarisai's voice right from the beginning. She had a distinctive and complicated character arc, and the author brought it out in the words. Her complicated relationship with The Lady was so well portrayed - all the emotions that she went through, the dilemma of choosing between loyalty and love, the crave to be important and belong, the want for a family. Ah, my heart ached for Tarisai!!
Ekundayo was an adorable bean, tbh, and I wished we could've had more scenes of him with Tarisai, seeing their relationship grow. Sanjeet wasn't my favorite character in the beginning but he really did grow on me later.

The whole cast is so intricately woven into the story, with a large ensemble. And each were unique, with distinctive voices. The palace politics was also so perfectly lain down, with excellent incorporation of culture and traditions, I felt. Listening to the audiobook was a delight in itself; the narrator truly brought out the essence of the story through the various sound imitations and voice modulation.

The story is not your average, everyday YA fantasy. It is an unique fantasy, richly inspired by West African folklore, while also exploring themes of race and cast, misogyny and patriarchy, trauma and healing, and the generational burden that we carry with ourselves. Raybearer is truly one gem of a book and I NEED THE SECOND BOOK LIKE RIGHT NOW 🥺😭
The ending was so beautiful and heartbreaking aarghhh. Jordan Ifuenko really ended it that way aghhhggg 🙃 I really loved this book so much and would 10/10 recommend. Can't wait for the next book to see where the story goes and how Tarisai fights in the patriarchal world!

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for an early audiobook. All views expressed are solely mine.

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I received an advance reader copy of this book on audio to read in exchange for an honest review via netgalley and the publishers.

This book was amazing! I just don't know where to start!
Therese (the main character) has been starved of touch from others since being a young child because if she touches you she can not only see but change and manipulate your memories. Her mother (the lady) sends her to become close to the Prince Drayo. She has been manipulated by The Lady and her mind tells her that once he anoints her as his own she must kill him.
Therese embarks on a journey longing for love and freindship, scared of the weapon she has been made into and the book unravels a plot that leaves you guessing at every turn as just when you think you know whats going to happen, the book cleverly twists to leave you guessing again.

This is a fantastic fantasy book with romance that contains many diverse, interesting and likeable characters throughout. Each scene is beautifully described and easy to envision. So many topics are woven into this book making it a fantastic book of the times we live in such as race, trauma, class, segmentation and colonisation.
The audio book I received was beautifully read and the narrator did a fantastic job reading it.

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Raybearer is Jordan Ifueko’s debut novel and it’s stunning. From the vividness of the world-building to the characters and villains throughout, Raybearer is truly a gem. I had the pleasure of listening to the audiobook courtesy of NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing, in exchange for an honest review and I am so glad I received this opportunity. While I don’t usually seek out audiobooks, the audiobook of Raybearer is exceptional.

Narrated by Joniece Abbott-Pratt, the Raybearer audiobook does a great job at not only still capturing the fantasy and magic but also captures each character in a way I’ve yet to encounter in another audiobook. Abbott-Pratt is pitch-perfect as Tarisai and every moment - all of the ups and downs in her journey are brought further to life with Abbott-Pratt’s outstanding voice work.

Where Raybearer really shines is in its originality. Many fantasy novels follow the same formulaic path for its protagonist, but Raybearer does a great job to set it apart from the other books in the fantasy realm and succeeds. The way that the book honed in on the theme of found family and didn’t have a romance that was quick to bloom really stood out for me. It was also equally exciting that there was so much myth and lore to explore. While I wasn't sure how all of this would translate in terms of an audiobook, but it was well done and I felt fully immersed in all of it.

For anyone looking for a fresh fantasy to explore, Raybearer is definitely the book for you. Rich with brilliant world and character building, it is hard to stop listening to the audiobook once you begin. I cannot wait to read the book because I definitely need another helping of the magic I experienced.

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I’ve been struggling to write this review because there’s just so much that I loved about this story. I feel like my review isn’t going to do it justice, but here goes nothing.

Raybearer is the brilliant example of taking the classic tropes that tend to be overused in YA and mold them as your own in order to deliver a riveting and engrossing fantasy that will swallow you whole.

Tarisai grew up being starved of touch since her touch allows her to glimpse and manipulate the memories of others. Tarsai’s mother (The Lady) sends Tarisai to the capital with a special task: kill the prince after he anoints Tarisai as a part of his council. Once Tarisai is at the capital, she wants nothing more to be loved and have a family since it’s a life she’s never known, so is she capable of killing the prince if she’s chosen for the council?

This is one of those stories that I thought I knew exactly where the plot was going especially when it came to romances, and I was so completely off base but couldn’t have been happier. The author did a phenomenal job of creating a full cast of characters that you couldn’t help but love and then have them surprise in you when you least expect it. I loved watching Tarisai interact with Kirah, Sanjeet, and Prince Dayo the most. Each of them influenced Tarisai into becoming something more than a weapon.

The worldbuilding is intricate and beautifully crafted. You have these lush scenes that are chock full of West African lore, and I honestly couldn’t get enough. But, don’t be fooled by this gorgeous cover though because the author tackles a myriad of difficult topics such as: misogyny, race, class, patriarchy, colonization, and generational trauma. Even though this is a fantasy, so much of this tale was a lesson as well.

I don’t want to say much else in fear of giving away this book. I want to also highlight that there is queer, asexual representation in this book. It was what changed my entire experience of this story. I don’t want to give spoilers, but I do think that is incredibly important and needs to be normalized especially in BIPOC communities where it is not addressed as often.

Final note, just read this story. It is amazing and worth every single page.

Thank you to Blackstone Publishing for providing an advanced listening copy through Libro.fm and NetGalley and Pique Beyond (ABRAMS) for providing a review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

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✨A luminous adventure R E V I E W ✨

(Thanks to @blackstonepublishing for the #gifted audio copy via @librofm and @netgalley)

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko, officially released today, is such a breathe of fresh air when it comes to YA fantasy! ✨

Tarisai has only ever wanted a connection: love from her family, to know the outside world. But when she finally gets her chance it comes with a catch: she is sent to gain the trust of the crown prince, and she is sworn to kill him. ✨

What follows is such a grand adventure for a first book in a fantasy series. What I was expecting in the first 10% of the story is quickly squashed - over and over as we follow Tarisai grow up and fight for herself and others. Ifueko has built a fascinating world you can get lost in, characters that embody the deeply complicated feelings of family and friendship, trauma and wonder, and a book that I’ll happily return to when it comes to waiting for the sequel.

I can’t wait to learn more about the powers of the Ray, which was only a sliver of the magic present in this world. You can easily spend time dissecting character motivations and studying various kingdom factions. “Behold what is coming” indeed — it’s time you pick up this impressive debut.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Jordan Ifueko is a glorious new voice to have in YA literature. Raybearer, follows similar tones of the likes of Tomi Adeyemi (Children of Blood and Bone) and Roseanne A. Brown (A Song of Wraiths and Ruin) but is also something new and wholly its own. Following Tarisai as she fights against a cursed destiny laid upon her by her mother, readers are taken across lush lands and introduced to a whole new world of magic. Joniece Abbott-Pratt brings even more life to the epic journey with her narration of the audiobook. I breezed through the novel, fighting against hitting pause needing to know what would happen next. The only thing that gave my nerves a bit of a rest was knowing there was a planned sequel. Ifueko presents a wonderful array of characters and takes the tale in unexpected directions. If you like strong leaders, magic, and a cast of wonderful characters then this debut should absolutely be in your TBR pile.

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***I was granted an audiobook ARC of this via Netgalley from the publisher.***

The book Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko is one of the best young adult novels I've read this year. The story follows Tarisai, a girl born half-human, half immortal through the machinations of her mother known simply as The Lady. The Lady uses Tarisai as a pawn in her game to get back at the emperor of Aritsar but forcing her to kill the prince, Dayo, once she gets him to love her. Tarisai is sent to the capital to join the prince's council, 11 individuals connected by the Ray which allows them to bond with him and keep him from death except by old age or assassination by a council member. Tarisai lives with the ever-present danger of fulfilling her mother's wishes via magic and the story sees Tarisai trying to find a way to seize control of her own destiny and not fulfill her mother's plans. This book's characters are its strongest point. You root for Tarisai and her friends, Sanjeet and Kirah, as you feel their lows, and their highs. Each character is dealing with some issues from their past and the author does a very good job of humanizing them while still showing their flaws. The world-building is great as well with an interesting magic system and a world populated with interesting people and creatures. The twists in this story also had my heart racing which is rare that because few books surprise me the way this one managed to. The narrator's performance was amazing as well. Each of the characters was given a voice that was individual to them allowing me to tell who was talking simply by hearing her voice. Overall, this was an amazing book and I look forward to its sequel which is surely coming after that great ending.

Rating: 5/5 stars. Would highly recommend to a friend.

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It is not often the i go out a buy an audio book. There is something that is hard about reading what you just listened too. But that is not the case for this book, i need my own print copy so i can go back and reread certain scenes again and again till i am content, this was such a wonderful debut and i cannot wait until book 2.

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This was wonderful, and rich and beautiful! This was originally read in an audiobook format, and the narrator really brought the story to life, and gave it so much personality. I loved everywhere it went, and every time I thought I knew what was going to happen next, I was very pleasantly surprised!

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Jordan Ifueko’s debut novel, Raybearer, may leave you in tears. An epic fantasy tale of a world led by a West-African inspired royal family with a long and murky history of power and magic. A world with mystical creatures and horrific demons.

Raybearer is a coming of age story of Tarisai, a daughter yearning for the love and presence of her mysterious and absentee mother. A girl child coming into her own power and identity in the immediate shadow of corruption, misogyny, inequality, and lies spanning generations.

Tarisai was an isolated child, raised and imprisoned by a succession of tutors afraid to touch her because of her unique powers to experience the history of people and things with a touch. Tarisai spent most of her childhood longing for the presence and affection of a mysterious and often absent mother known only as “The Lady.”

While still very young, The Lady sends Tarisai to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If picked, Tarisai will be bonded to the Prince and Council via a bond deeper than blood through the Ray.

At the age of 10, Tarisai starts to experience the connection and community she has always longed for among the Prince and the council of children he begins to form. But she soon discovers that The Lady has long had other plans for her and the entire empire. Tarisai finds herself under the bondage of a magical wish with a command she is compelled to obey: kill the Crown Prince once she secures his trust.

Book Review

That is the plot in a very abbreviated nutshell. But Raybearer is a nuanced, intentional, and lovely YA novel that does not fall victim to the many pitfalls of the genre.

So much is done to and chosen for Tarisai. She is a weapon, a means to an end, and a child laden with expectation and responsibility. She is also deeply intelligent, observant, strong-willed, and passionate. She makes hard decisions for reasons beyond herself. She falls in love, but her journey is not defined by it. Her complexity is not minimized.

The world of Raybearer is filled with complex characters. A well-paced plot that is not entirely predictable, with storytelling that does not drag along.

For me, the icing on the cake was the cultural gradation. The diversity of cultural storytelling and representation. The narrative within the narrative that will make you pause at times when you think how often it is erased in popular North American literature. I found myself pausing more than once to soak up the intimacy and detail of a scene.

There were moments that I did find myself frustrated with Tarisai. But these moments were often mitigated by the pace and progression of the narrative. The story is the first book in the series, and while it ends with work to be done and journeys to be completed, it does not close with an extreme cliffhanger that leaves the reader bereft. There is clear closure of a chapter that leaves you with a sea of complex emotions.

Raybearer is an engaging and exciting read. A reader’s level of enjoyment will come down to taste but, in my opinion, worth taking a chance on.

Comments On Narration For Audiobook Listeners

The voice actor had their work cut out for them. There was an array of cultural accents, songs, and characters to voice. The acting was neither annoying nor a distraction. The narrator was emotive, clear, and consistent. Overall solid, and if your preference is for Audiobooks, I think you won’t have any material issues or complaints with Raybearer.

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Let me just say, I am very lucky that I got an ARC of this book courtesy of Netgalley Audio. This book is fantastic. To all the people who want to read a YA Fantasy book about love, abandonment and betrayal, with some magic, destiny, fate. This is a book you should read. When I made a request for this I was not expecting this book to be what it actually was. It was 14 hours of goodness with 368 pages.

The book is about the Chosen One, a girl who is chosen to protect the one she is born to destroy. Tarisai as a kid has lots of abandonment issues cause since birth she is being raised in isolation with almost no-touch, and separate from the world. The Lady makes her crave for almost simplest things in life, which we believe are a given, like care from her mother, unconditionally love and even The Lady calls her "made of me" rather than her name. I was sad every time, I read their conversations and their parts in the book.. When Tar goes (The Lady sends her) to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar, to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. Which means connecting with the crown prince through his "ray" so they become undefeatable. The complex, multi-layered world-building, and how the magic system worked was another thing in favour of the book. I loved how the African Mythology was connected and yet they remained different with its own identity.

Tar she finds family in Kirah, Sanjeet, Dayo, Woo In (disgraced prince) and other crown's council. The character of Kirah and the relationship of Sanjeet and Tar was my favourite parts from the book. Kirah's was such a sweet gentle soul with her hollow being of healing through music, it felt so good. Sanjeet the big burly kid, The Prince's Bear, who was abused and used by his father but still cared for Tar and his amah felt so precious. Tar even though never knew love or touch herself since her kids, still heals Sanjeet from his past, removes nightmares for every crown's sibling cause her hollow was knowing the past of person or thing. The Lady may be very bad, but man was she proper bad, so we could hate her from page 1 to last even though at times I felt sorry for her I didn't care for such a villain much.

This books also stems in my mind that even though our destiny may have been written in stone, but we can still change it be whoever we wish to be and not succumb to the popular belief system. I love how fate and destiny are something we build and not something which is given and we have no control over it.

Through this book, Ifuenko kept Nigerian cultures at the foremost with the names of characters, their clothes, their customs, traditions. I needed to do a lot of back research for this book, to understand the things about this book, but it was definitely worth it. This story also requires a lot of concentration, effort from the reader to actually understand this.

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An excellent audiobook production- I was completely taken in from the very beginning right through to the end.

Raybearer hosts such a rich and compelling world. It centres a uniuely crafted political structure, alongside magically talented individuals, and the result is just. *chefs kiss*

Our main character, Tarisai, has grown up isolated from the outside world she can see from her window, and deprived of any real affection or human connection. Her mother, known only as The Lady, has raised her with one goal- to become one of eleven trusted Council Members, and to kill the Crown Prince..If she can make it through the trials and become a council member, she'll be joined to them through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood- and will become part of a family she's craved all her life.

Tarisai desperately wants to disobey her mothers wishes, but she's magically compelled to obey. Desperation makes us ruthless in finding loopholes, though, and Tarisai might just have figured it out. Or not.

What follows is a journey across the lands of Aritsar, a beautiful tale of found family, interesting magic, and a deep and expansive plot that makes me sigh with happiness. Told with gorgeous prose and compelling, complex characters, this novel was a brilliant start to what will very likely become a new favourite fantasy series.

Ifueko did a fantasic job of wrapping up this first book while also setting up book 2, and she got me hook, line and sinker.

This might just be my favourite YA Fantasy novel of 2020

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As a reader of fantasy, I loved every bit of this book. When we first begin reading it, we are introduced to Tarasai. She is sheltered and deprived of love and friendship. I felt empathy for her. I wanted nothing more for her than to be loved. She desired love from her mother, who was absent and unwilling to offer it. Throughout the novel, we see how this beginning helped to shape her outlook on life and how she related to others. This deprivation was unlike children in captivity experience. Though the setting of this story is in a fictional world, it is not undeniable to see the real world implications of childen in captivity (refugee camps, ICE detention, prison). As the story progresses, we see how this sheltering has made Tarisai feel connection with the other children on the council. She has found the family that she craved and needed.

Jordan Ifuenko did an amazing job creating this world. I felt that I could immerse myself in this story and visualize everything that occurs between the pages of this book. Aritsar is an empire of many peoples, and with the empire building, there is a dark side that becomes very apparent with the sacrifices of the children of Songland. These children are outside of the empire, yet the sacrifice of these Redemptors are on the behalf of the empire. The inequality is felt in the reading of these pages and is not ignored. Ifuenko has also brought forth the issue of gender equality. Only the men can lead this empire. As a reader, I felt that the writer addresses this very well and beautifully, without being preachy.

By the end of this book, I didn’t want it to end. I could have read more and been satisfied. I am grateful to have stepped into this world, and can’t wait for what happens next.

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This story certainly impressed and was so beautiful. This story is one of the rare ones that kept me guessing all the way through to the end - I did not see the ending coming. The characters are developed and developed so well that they actually feel fully fleshed out! The world is developed perfectly and built so you can feel yourself inside of it. I am over the moon in love with this book and cannot wait to read more from this author!

The audiobook for this one was completely stunning and enchanting.

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All Tarisai has ever wanted is to belong. When she is chosen to join the Crown Prince’s Council of Eleven she is connected to them through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. She has finally found a family.

But Tarisai has a secret.

Born to The Lady with one purpose, and one purpose alone, Tarisai is compelled by a magic deep within her bones to kill the Crown Prince she has come to love.

Can she resist The Lady's will?

Or will she be responsible for destroying those she holds most dear?

Ifueko's stunning world-building and character development immerse you from the very first word. A captivating tale of loyalty, fate, and belonging, this fantasy world feels as tangible as our own. Exploring politics, exploitation, and trauma, Raybearer scratches far more than just the surface.

Written in mesmerizing prose, this diverse fantasy YA novel gives up a complex and determined heroine to look up to, flaws and all.

Joniece Abbott-Pratt's narration was full of emotion and perfectly captured all of the many varied characters. I was on the edge of my seat and listened to the entire book in just two days, mouth hanging open at the twists and turns.

I can't wait to continue this journey with Tarisai in the next installment!

Thank you to Netgalley, Blackstone Publishing, and Jordan Ifueko for providing me with a free audiobook copy of Raybearer in exchange for an honest review.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3388338575?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1
https://www.instagram.com/p/CD180kYpQBF/
(YouTube review to come)

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4.5 stars
Wow - I'm not a huge fantasy reader but I was happy to receive this advanced audiobook version because this was brilliant. I'm happy that I was given a copy of this book because the plotline and the characters were captivating and did a great job of incorporating magic. I loved the vivid depiction of the Black girl magic, from the description of the braids to the jewelry that was worn.

The only reason I gave this 4.5 stars instead of a 5 is that some of the beginning parts of the books were a little boring for me. However, the second half of the book picked up and I couldn't put it down. I'm excited to read more books in this world because I must know what happens next.

Thank you Netgalley for providing a free advanced audiobook version of the book. All opinions are my own.

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For as long as she can remember, Tarisai has been alone with nothing but her tutors to keep her company. Her mother, known as “The Lady” rarely ever comes around and her father is nowhere to be found. She’s grown used to this existence up until the moment where The Lady comes to gather her. She has a special trip planned. It turns out, Tarisai has been kept isolated from the world for a purpose: to join Prince Dayo’s Council of 11 when she comes of age. Tarisai knew nothing of this plan until her mother showed her a picture of Dayo. See, Tarisai is half ehru, which means she’s compelled to fulfill a limited number of wishes for her mother. For her third and final wish, The Lady orders Tarisai to gain Prince Dayo’s trust, become one of his 11 and then when he loves her the most, kill him. Tarisai is brought to the capital of Aritsar, but she has no clue why she’s there. She doesn’t know what this visit is about, what will happen and doesn’t even remember what her mother commanded her to do. Tarisai is excited at the possibility of finally having friends and not being alone…but little does she know those friends will come at a cost.

Let me tell you what I loved about this book, which was essentially…EVERYTHING!

From the moment we meet Tarisai, you can’t help but feel connected to her. She’s a little girl who wants nothing more than to be loved by the mother she almost never gets to see, but even deeper than that she just doesn’t want to be alone anymore. You can’t help but feel sorry for her, simply because from the beginning it’s clear she’s being used as a pawn in a game she doesn’t understand. She’s thrust into a situation she doesn’t understand as a child and is forced to adapt despite the fact that according to the current emperor and his Council, she looks exactly like her mother who was a traitor to the empire, or so they say. She has no idea if it’s true or not or what her mother did, but being the spitting image of her and having a hallow that allows her to see, steal, and replace memories can be very dangerous. The Council of 11 are the only ones who can harm the Emperor. They are his most trusted advisors, helping to keep the realm and Emperor safe, connected by something known as a Ray, which connects their minds to one another. What will happen if Tarisai actually becomes a member of the Council? She could be a danger to Prince Dayo? She seems innocent enough, but how can they be sure? How can Tarisai herself be sure?

These questions lead me to my point. No one knows for sure what’s going to happen. It’s clear that Tarisai has found her place in the capital, but the curse is also always in the back of the readers mind. How will Tarisai overcome this obstacle? Is she strong enough to fight against her mother’s wishes and forge her own destiny? Will anyone figure out what’s truly going on??? THE PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW!

The other piece of Raybearer that I loved were the characters themselves. I think often times, side characters don’t get enough love and so we’re left not feeling connected to them. Jordan did an amazing job going against that grain with this book. Kirah, Dayo, and Sanjeet are all amazing in their own right. Kirah and Tarisai immediately connect with one another and Kirah is such a kind soul that it’s hard not to love her from the very beginning. Dayo, it’s clear, has spent his whole life waiting for the moment that he’ll have his own Council of 11, not because he wants to rule, but because that means he’ll finally have friends who understand him and love him; People he’ll be connected with for the rest of his life. Sanjeet….listen I swooned over Sanjeet the moment he was introduced. He’s completely misunderstood because of his size and his past, but he’s so much more than a soldier or a fighter. After growing up in an abusive home and losing his little brother, he’s come to adore Dayo, but he’s terrified of losing him too. He understands Tarisai in a way that no one else can. He understands what it’s like to grow up alone and afraid and wanting your parent’s love and approval, but never seeming to be enough. I just wanted to wrap him up in my arms and never let him go. It was like that for so many of the characters. You learn and watch them grow along the way and you can’t help but to root for them.

Finally, the Jordan’s writing is just amazing. She brings the cultures and the world of Aritsar alive with her words and imagery. This felt like a kingdom I not only wanted to visit, but also spend serious time in. Each of the kingdoms of the Empire has their own culture and beliefs and I just wanted nothing more than to learn about each and every one of them. It’s truly amazing when an author can meld fantasy, culture, and amazing characters into one story and honestly, that’s exactly what Jordan did with Raybearer.

Not only is this story amazing, but it also tackles some amazing things. We get to see on page Ace rep, the threat of losing your culture to colonization, just how harmful colonization can be, the importance of friendship, parental abandonment and abuse/manipulation, misogyny, the bullshit that is the patriarchy, and what happens when men are scared of powerful women.

I just have a lot of feelings about this book okay. Deal with it.

As a side note, I absolutely loved the narration of the audiobook. The narrator captured the magic of the story as well as the characters, which can sometimes be difficult. I would definitely listen to it again.

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This is by far one of the best books I have read in 2020. I already know it is going to be in my top 5 no matter what else comes out. The relationships between Tarisai and Jeet and Tarisai and Kirah made my heart grow five sizes.

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This book is a ray of excellence! ….And I will not apologise for using a completely appropriate title pun just now 😌 I just absolutely adored every page of Raybearer. (Well I listened to the audiobook, which was also incredible and I can’t recommend enough!!) It felt fresh and powerful, creative but also gives that comfort of a good sprawling fantasy world that you can just lose yourself in.

I suspect this will be the best YA fantasy I’ll read this year and I am here, in awe.

This is generally what sells a book for me, and oh I love the cast of Raybearer so much. Tarisai is cunning and clever, soft and vulnerable. She just wants a family and to be loveeeeed. Her voice is spectacular; she has the kind of narration that makes every scene a delight to be in. She also has a very specific gift: she can see the memories of a person or object just by touching them. She can also erase or dull memories, and she actually uses this for good to take away her childhood friends’ bad dreams. 🥺

The side characters also stole my heart too. I loved Dayo (the prince) and his and Tarisai’s really tight friendship. Then there’s Kirah who was practical and clever but also that mothering friend. And Sanjeet! The one who is too tol, too intimidating…but secretly an utter marshmallow. (Also can we take a second of deep appreciation that a YA book exists where the first boy Tarisai meets isn’t the love interest 😂👌🏻 thank you.)

The complexities of the villains (are they villains 👀) were also thoroughly captivating. I also loved the coming-of-age bent to this. The prince and his Eleven are still only growing up, so while they learn politics, the adults are still busy controlling the world. Their backstory was both layered and dark and fascinating too.

The world is so deliciously complex and huge, it had so many layers. It felt REAL. Vast and unmappable. You don’t have to remember or understand every people group or country, because it reminds you of who is who until you fall into the rhythm of the story. I genuinely appreciate a complex world and history! The backstory is amazing too. Like you could easily want a prequel following The Lady’s life?! (Or am I just craving more from this author…also that.)

The story starts when Tarisai is young: it follows her growing up under tutors and being taught to be terrifically smart. But all she wants is the love and affection of her distant mother, known only as The Lady. At 12 years old, Tarisai is taken to the palace to join the contest to become one of the prince’s sacred 11. This is how the kingdom is ruled: the king (the Raybearer) has a council of 11 and they are all completely interwoven and close and can talk through their minds and all linked by deep deep love.

Of course there are SO many twists and backstories and I’m not even going to go into it too deeply because just read it!!!! But least to say Tarisai gets chosen by the prince and the world unravels and changes from there.

Raybearer really captured my heart and imagination, and I can’t properly articulate just how exquisite this story is. It was creative and nuanced, beautiful and layered. I’m still thinking about it days later and aching with need for the sequel — because w o w that ending has left me both whole and wrecked. I love.

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Wow! This audiobook was fabulous! Such a magical thrill ride that I was not expecting to love so much!! I am SO glad I was able to listen to this book via netgalley.

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SURPRISING.

Is one word to explain my feelings towards this book. This book is so unlike any YA fantasy book I've ever read, it takes such basic tropes and twists them so perfectly in just the slightest of ways.


The first line immediately caught my interest and I was in love by the first dialogue. I love the songs and spoken storytelling woven into this book and the main plot, I love almost all the characters, good, bad, or gray for various reasons!

Jordan Ifueko truly did an amazing job in capturing the reader's attention and using so many amazing West African inspirations that I'm sure had own voices Nigerians in love because, I, as an Jamaican reader truly connected and loved this book because of those portrayals and the foods mainly!

This book came together so perfectly, I truly enjoyed it and it's now one of my TOP favorites of this year!!!!

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Phenomenal narrator, she slipped between the diverse cast of characters seamlessly. Every character had a distinct voice. There are many audiobooks I need to do something while I listen, this one kept me enraptured to the point I often couldn't drive and listen!

Engaging, moving story, I believe middle grade and teen readers will love the narration as much as adults. Full of mythology, a world that is decidedly not Western and strong women and the men who surround them. Just when you think you understand the motivations of a character you are surprised.

A book I will listen to again and again.

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First of all, thank you to Amulet Books for approving me for an ALC of Raybearer on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Tarisai is the only daughter of The Lady, and in her blood is the last wish that Tarisai must obey: once she gains the trust of the Crowned Prince, she must kill him. The Lady sends her to the capital where she must compete with other 11 year-olds to be chosen for the Crown Prince's Council of 11. If chosen by the Prince, she will counnect with him and the other Council members through the Ray.

Tarisai has never really belonged, but surrounded by other children with Hollows (gifts), this might be everything she could have wanted. All Tarisai wants, now, is to be a part of something, but the wish of The Lady is growing stronger inside her.

THIS BOOK. This book. ThIs BoOk. Like, where do I start? The world-building, the magic, the backstory. The characters are just YES. And the writing is beautiful and easy to read. This is definitely a fast read, but just becuase I was so sucked into the story and the world! It's so immersive, you'll stay up until 1 a.m. reading it. The romance in it is so sweet, and the characters, though young, are mature and thoughtfully written.

AND THE AUDIOBOOK! Like, one second, you think the physical copy is amazing, BUT WAIT. THERE"S MORE. Abbott-Pratt did an absolutely amazing job with this book! Her voice was absolutely perfect for this book, her pacing was amazing, and it just made me love Raybearer EVEN MORE, if that's even possible! So read it, listen to it, or, ya know, DO BOTH!

I just want to scream about this book becuase it is AMAZING. I don't know what else to say but read this! Add it to your TBR, because this might be my favorite debut of the year!

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An instant classic! I finally found something new that I can use in my classroom!

(The audiobook is an absolute treasure as Joniece Abbott-Pratt provides award-worthy narration throughout.)

I simply can not wait for the next installment -- I just hope it arrives soon,, before "council sickness" sets in!

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A wonderful story with a strong female protagonist. Tar is smart and powerful and the story is captivating with pacing that makes you not want to put it down. The narration was excellent.

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This book is everything I want in a fantasy novel. It's perfect and I can't wait to read the second book in the series.

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Thank you NetGalley for an advanced copy of Raybearer in exchange for an honest review. What an absolutely wonderful read. The world-building was amazing, the pacing and plot were perfectly aligned; and, the narration was impeccable.. Tarisai was raised in isolation, but yearns for the closeness she could have as one of the Crown Prince's Council of 11; however, her mother, only referred to as "The Lady," has coerced her, through magic and manipulation, to kill the Crown Prince.

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