Release Date: August 7, 2012
(Thanks to ATWT for allowing me to participate on this tour!)
Published by: Philomel
Chronicling the rise of the Keepers, this is the stunning prequel to Andrea Cremer's internationally bestselling Nightshade trilogy!
Sixteen-year-old Ember Morrow is promised to a group called Conatus after one of their healers saves her mother's life. Once she arrives, Ember finds joy in wielding swords, learning magic, and fighting the encroaching darkness loose in the world. She also finds herself falling in love with her mentor, the dashing, brooding, and powerful Barrow Hess. When the knights realize Eira, one of their leaders, is dabbling in dark magic, Ember and Barrow must choose whether to follow Eira into the nether realm or to pledge their lives to destroying her and her kind.
With action, adventure, magic, and tantalizing sensuality, this book is as fast-paced and breathtaking as the Nightshade novels.
1. (+) Ember, the protagonist - Ember's another smart and strong female protagonist who's willing to fight for what she wants. Her father has been trying to / wants to marry her off to another nobleman so he'll gain more land and influence elsewhere but Ember doesn't want to marry, she doesn't want to serve another man; she wants to serve herself. She wants to have her battles with straw figures she's made be real ones -- she doesn't want to weave and manage a household. That's not to say that she doesn't get scared during her fights, but when she's confronted with danger, she acts admirably, and in general, there's always something about a girl who craves adventure and wants more from her life than is given to her life that's easy to sympathize with.
2. (+) World Building - There are some of the original Nightshade elements like portals, wraiths, and connecting with the earth but there's more - like making weapons, a host full of creatures like redcaps and kelpies, and lots of medieval setting - whether that be the clothing, the dialogue, or the view on womanhood. There was a lot more of church / magic conflict than I expected from the summary -- it's actually very central to the plot, which is interesting because the Searchers in the Nightshade novels don't really mention that, do they? Conatus gets likened to the Templars, who had trouble with lay people assuming they were witches as they fought evil. Either way, it was really nice to see how Cremer built another world that fit within the Nightshade one but that still had conflict of its own.
3. (+) Romance - One of the best parts of the novel was the romance between Ember and Barrow. It's not the major plot of the book - the third person alternates between the two of them and Eira & Cian as they grow more distant - but there were times when I would wish that I got to read more scenes with them than of the Eira/Bosque Mar alliance. Barrow is exactly as he's described - he's charming, loyal, the strong and silent type except for the part where he still laughs and enjoys himself in Ember's company. The one thing I found strange was that it hard to believe he fell in love with her - he definitely acted like a man in love, but when I think of what Ember did and said to him, I didn't see what made her irresistible in his eyes. It's easier for me to see why she would've fallen in love with him. On another note, it was also nice to see how they fought their attraction, and to read about Ember's blossoming sexuality in itself.
4. (--) Confusion - Honestly, I didn't understand some of the context behind the dialogues. Mostly, I mean Eira's motivations for continuing with Bosque Mar. She knows it's wrong and doesn't want to hide it from her sister, but there's something else driving her there... At first, I thought it would be because she has to consistently hide the fact that she's a woman when it comes to the public and her being a knight... and the church's corruption and the Papal Schism does add an extra layer of frustration ... but to suddenly lose your moral fortitude? Towards the end is when you get one of the more solid explanations for why Eira was acting the way she was, but by then it had already happened, her falling into Mar's clutches..
5. (+) Progression - What I did think was particularly well portrayed was the way Eira acted on her spiraling descent -- the more secretive she became, the more in debt to Bosque Mar she became, the way she became more manipulative, more like a strategist preparing for a war once she'd cast her lot with Mar.
6. (+) Villain - Bosque Mar was incredibly smart in this novel. Where he failed to impress me in the Nightshade novels he definitely impressed me here with his cunning plans and the way he engineered it so that Eira had very few agreeable choices.
7. (--) Too... Perfect - What bothered me about the novel was that Ember caught on too quickly to swordsplay. Granted, Cremer only has two novels to tell this story... and the focus isn't on Ember becoming a skilled warrior but she'd been practicing on straw figures... even if she has natural talent, it too needs practice before she becomes this person who surprises everyone with how good she is. I would've appreciated it more had she failed and not just been a courageous, talented warrior from the start.
8. (+) Writing - Andrea Cremer is queen of capturing that blossoming sexuality... It's very sensual writing, even in third person. I would actually say that I prefer this style over her first person Nightshade novels.
9. (+/-) Pacing - The pacing is kind of choppy since it's essentially two stories folded into one - the romance and the betrayal - and each has its own pacing - the growing sense of secrecy / the rise and fall in that, etc. vs. the slow burning fire between Barrow and Ember.
10. (+) Cover - It's fierce like Ember, with her swords and shows some of the medieval hints... but they really need to stop printing those cheesy tag lines for the Nightshade series...
Andrea Cremer's writing is as gorgeous as ever in this story of the rising sexuality of the daughter of a nobleman and a warrior woman's descent to secrecy and lies.