They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king years ago. Now Kate lives as an outcast, clinging to the fringes of society as a member of the Relay, the imperial courier service. Only those most skilled in riding and bow hunting ride for the Relay; and only the fastest survive, for when dark falls, the nightdrakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: she is a wilder, born with magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals. But it’s this magic that she needs to keep hidden, as being a wilder is forbidden, punishable by death or exile. And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by nightdrakes in broad daylight—the only survivor her childhood friend, her first love, the boy she swore to forget, the boy who broke her heart.
The high king’s second son, Corwin Tormane, never asked to lead. Even as he waits for the uror—the once-in-a-generation ritual to decide which of the king’s children will succeed him—he knows it’s always been his brother who will assume the throne. And that’s fine by him. He’d rather spend his days away from the palace, away from the sight of his father, broken with sickness from the attempt on his life. But the peacekeeping tour Corwin is on has given him too much time to reflect upon the night he saved his father’s life—the night he condemned the would-be killer to death and lost the girl he loved. Which is why he takes it on himself to investigate rumors of unrest in one of the remote city-states, only for his caravan to be attacked—and for him to be saved by Kate.
With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin have to put the past behind them. The threat of drakes who attack in the daylight is only the beginning of a darker menace stirring in the kingdom—one whose origins have dire implications for Kate’s father’s attack upon the king and will thrust them into the middle of a brewing civil war in the kingdom of Rime.
**** Thank you to Balzer + Bray for providing an ARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review ****
Trigger Warning: Animal Death, Torture/Violence (on human characters)
I was pleasantly surprised with how much I ended up enjoying “Onyx & Ivory”, I assumed it would be another run of the mill/cliched YA Fantasy book but it really wasn’t! I had a lot of fun reading this one even if it was a bit on the long side for me.
I’d first like to address the trigger warning I provided concerning animal death. While it isn’t a super big focus of the book or anything it was still very heartbreaking and I’d like to warn fellow animal lovers. There is a scene at the beginning of the book where a horse has to be put down because of an injury and a scene later on where a horse is killed in action. It’s even more upsetting since the characters are very bonded to these animals as well. I was pretty upset by this while reading.
“Onyx & Ivory” is told from two POVs: Kate, the daughter of a traitor who made an attempt on the king’s life, and Corwin, the second son of the king. At first I didn’t really enjoy the alternating perspectives but both characters really grew on me and in the end I enjoyed both POVs a lot!
The overall storyline is pretty dense and there’s a ton of different things going on, but not too much that it’s too hard to keep track of. Kate is just trying to live her own life by riding for the Relay, a sort of postal service, and keeping her wilder magic a secret lest she be executed for it. She has the ability to enter animals’s minds, more often than not horses to be specific. I’m a big time horse lover so I could relate a lot to Kate’s love of horses and her ability was super neat! Then we have Corwin, the second son of the king (as mentioned) and who awaits the day the uror is initiated, a ceremony that pits both princes against each other to determine who will inherit the throne. I really liked this ritual, I thought it was very interesting and well fleshed out!
Both characters have their own story lines but are both thrown together when a new threat arises, drakes that can attack during the day. So essentially the main plot follows their attempts at discovering how these daydrakes came about, since normally drakes only attack at night. However, we do follow each character’s individual plot line as well and it was ALL really interesting, I was very invested!
The pacing was fast to even as well, never really slow. I definitely appreciated that the story never got bogged down in boring details such as travel. One minute they were in a city and the next they were back in a different one, without having ten chapters in between. That’s always nice! However, at 512 pages it did get to be a little too long for me at times.
There’s also plenty of action and a few twists as well, a few I did see coming but others I didn’t. Overall it wasn’t too predictable and I loved how well the story flowed.
And the world building? Amazing! As I already mentioned I was very interested in the uror ceremony that pits the two brothers against one another to find who is worthy to be king. The trials themselves were also really neat, but I won’t spoil them! There’s also an interesting magic system where magists, elite mages that work for the kingdom and sell their magic only to those who can afford it, and wilders, common people who have power over the elements and are hunted for it, exist. There’s definitely a lot of political strife surrounding the magic wielders in this story as well, which gets to be a bigger focus later on in the book. I did like the bits of info on the other kingdoms/countries and I’m guessing this will be further explored in a sequel since the ending definitely set us up for one!
I will definitely be curious to see where future books take us in this series, sign me up for the sequel!
Honestly I think the characters were my favorite part of this book, everyone was very well developed and complex. Plus I’m always happy when secondary characters are explored more! Overall I was very, very happy with the characters !
I already briefly discussed the two main characters: Kate and Corwin, but would like to say a couple more things. Kate is super fierce and I loved how stubborn she could be for the right reasons, she also cares very deeply for her friends. However, her and Corwin have a past and I didn’t really like how mad and hateful she acted towards him for a majority of the book. For reasons I won’t spoil of course, but it was very unfair sometimes. Corwin is also a great character and I loved his humility and he was also very caring towards his friends.
As for secondary characters I really, really loved a few of them! Dal, the devilishly charming best friend of Corwin, was so much fun and I loved his humor and witty banter throughout the story. Then we had Bonner, a blacksmith and one of Kate’s friends, he was just so adorable I could hug him forever! Signe, another of Kate’s friends who hails from a different kingdom, she was alright I didn’t think she was developed enough for me to have a bigger opinion of her. And a favorite character of mine: Master Raith, a magist, I won’t elaborate because of spoilers though!
I actually liked the romance in this one! Kate and Corwin have a past when we start the story so there’s a bit of angst between them and their feelings. I liked that the two had a history, it gave their romance a nice back story and also got rid of any notion of insta-love. Also there’s a tish bit of forbidden romance, a personal favorite of mine, since he’s the prince and can’t marry a “commoner” like Kate and it was a slow burn! I liked the two of them together and also liked that the romance never took over the plot, overall very impressed!
What I Loved:
- Well developed characters
- Horses! (Mostly Kate’s ability to communicate with them)
- World building and magic system
- Evenly paced and lots of action
- Slow burn romance
What I Didn’t Love:
- Little bit more info on certain aspects of the world building
- Rushed ending
- Animal death
- Bit too long for me
Overall I definitely recommend checking out “Onyx & Ivory” it’s a fun YA Fantasy that doesn’t fall deeply into the typical cliches we are so used to seeing in YA Fantasy books!