Preferring swordcraft to magic, Toranih’s grasp of her powers is basic at best. However, when an enemy not only rips the magic from most of her nation but also unleashes shadow warriors that are immune to mundane weapons, Toranih becomes one of the few people who can save her home. But what will embracing a power that she doesn’t understand cost?
Adapting the tropes of the chosen one from both Young Adult novels and classic fantasy, Flint replaces dystopia and poverty with an enlightened civilisation and life of privilege. This both creates a feeling of freshness and makes the threat hit harder when it comes.
The education and social position of Toranih and her allies also provide a plausible reason for their rapid competence and slight habit of thinking in exposition: unlike many teenage protagonists, they have been trained in combat, history, geography, and other relevant arts, so merely needs to move from theoretical to practical application.
However, while Toranih’s commentary on events mostly serves to brief the reader without damaging immersion, it veers into the territory of objective reporting rather than emotive experiencing in a few of the uses of magic. Each act of ribbon magic is described in terms of what colour ribbons flow out from the user and how they flow. Although this strengthens the sense of a society filled with art and beauty when first encountered, and provides a visceral edge to seeing a person lose magical ability, the colours and patterns seem vitally important to the characters but are never explained; as such, some readers might find themselves either obsessing over a hidden meaning that never resolves or skimming the description as “another few sentences of magical hand-waving.”
Apart from Toranih’s obsession with the appearance of ribbon magic, the plot is fast-paced and engaging. There are real consequences for characters actions, both immediate and long-term, and the pressure increases swiftly yet plausibly.
This novella is very clearly the first part of a series. While there is a complete arc from comfortable ignorance to new understanding, the ending leaves a considerable amount unresolved, meaning this book is unlikely to work as a standalone work and might irritate readers who strongly dislike a sense of a story being chopped into several volumes.
Toranih is a well-crafted young protagonist: her concerns are very clearly shaped by her lack of life experience, but she is neither whiney nor irritatingly more right than adults; as such, readers with a dislike of the traditional teenage heroine’s focus on boys and popularity are unlikely to find themselves wishing to clip Toranih around the head until she starts thinking straight.
The supporting cast are similarly shown from a young adult perspective without being defined by it. Toranih’s friends and family are sometimes less rounded, but only in reverse proportion to their page time; as such, the extent to which they seem to exist only as foils for her concerns feels more like the intersection of separate personal narratives than the self-absorption of the protagonist.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I recommend it to readers seeking a classic fantasy story in the style of a young adult novel.
I received a free copy from the author with a request for a fair review.