“How do you know when you’re the monster?”
Fantasy is not really my thing. I’m a literary fiction addict. Once in a while I force myself outside my zone and I read a thriller or YA or what have you, but mostly I just jones until I’m onto my next literary book. They are piling up on my kindle at an alarming rate. In general, if I happen to be reading a thriller or a fantasy or a mystery, I might be enjoying it but I’m also asking myself: “Why am I reading this when I could be reading some more Donna Tartt? Some more Anne Tyler?”
Truthfully, this just didn’t happen with Kai’s stunning debut. I was hooked from the beginning. In a beautifully-realized desert world that is both familiar and extraordinary, where the souls of the dead (jaan) must be quieted by those specially trained or they roam the sands, looking for live hosts to drive mad, a family of secret assassins is about to be called back to work after a decade-long ban.
Amastan, scribe by day, has just finished his training to become one of these assassins when he discovers that a ban on contracts to kill will prevent him from ever using his newly-acquired skills—for now. Soon, though, a string of murders sets Amastan on a quest to discover who could be carrying them out, before his family is unjustly blamed.
There are so many things about this book that propelled me through it—at a much quicker pace than my usual, I might add. First off, the world-building is flawless, and done with delicious prose: “The moon cast off the horizon and rose like a dream into the sky. Its thin light spilled across the sands…” All a literary fiction buff could hope for! Swoon.
And then there were the vivid characters. I think my favorite was Menna, Amastan’s assassin “cousin” who also studies to be a healer. She’s brave, snarkastic, capable, and her unwavering confidence is just so darned appealing. She’s a perfect foil for Amastan, who is filled with so much doubt: about his blossoming relationship with love interest Yufit, his ability to solve the mystery in time, and most importantly, whether he could really kill if called upon, despite his training.
Lastly, the mystery is all a reader could hope for. The plot is continually twisting and surprising in delightful ways, and kept me guessing until the end. All I can say is, this book definitely has me wavering a little on my undying devotion to literary fiction. I can see I need to read other genres more often, because I have been missing out.
Here’s to Kai and her debut this week—eagerly looking forward to the next installment in the series!
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