Monday, 4 October 2021

SpoOOoky Halloween 2021 - Redemptor

My first SpoOOoky Halloween post and this took some time as I audiobooked back in late August and early September while driving to and from my new job (I only listened to around 30/40 minutes per car trip, if I was in the mood and not too stressed/freaked out) and, because of how little time I listened, it took me so much longer than I normally would. Plus, at the time of writing this (back in early September, FYI), am having a bit of a head cold so... yeah... this might not be the best start of SpoOOoky Halloween, but we are going to take it and run with it! 

Title And Author: Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Bought, Borrowed or Gifted: eProof gifted by UK publisher in exchange for honest review/reaction while audiobook was borrowed from local library via BorrowBox app. 

After the shocking end of Raybearer, Tarisai now finds herself Empress Redemptor, sitting on Aritsar's throne, a Raybearer in her own right. But to appease the sinister spirits of the dead, she must anoint her own council, leaders from nations within the kingdom. Then, once done, she must descend into the Underworld, the final sacrifice to end all future atrocities. And she has only two years to do these impossible tasks in. 

Tarisai is determined to survive. To return from the Underworld. But her reign as empress is shaky, especially since the arrival of the mysterious rebel leader, the Crocodile, her council siblings and friends are becoming distant and she's started to see child spirits, all demanding that she must pay for the sins of the empire, that she must do more...

With the pressures growing and the ghosts refusing to leave her, how far can Tarisai go for justice and a better future? Is she willing to dine for it, or will she find the strength to live for it? And what if things have other plans?

Now, I can't remember if I spoke about my reading of Raybearer, the first book in this duology last year (I know I reviewed it on Goodreads, but I think I was in the middle of a blog break over the summer of last year so I might not have chatted about it on here) but while I did like it, I did find the first half of it a tad slow (world-building and introduction to characters, I get that) and it was only when we got to the latter half when the book, for me, found its stride and with everything that happened, I kept thinking "How is Jordan Ifueko going to wrap this up? How is she going to do it?"

I shouldn't have worried. This is a worthy sequel to Raybearer. In fact, in some ways, it's far superior. 

This duology delivers everything I think most of us readers wanted. A wonderfully rich world with its own mythology, fleshed out characters, mental health issues, parental issues, LGBTQ+ characters among others and careful, expert plotting. You can tell Jordan Ifueko has plotted this duology carefully and, at the same time, allowed characters to breath and go their own way. 

I loved how this book tackles LGBTQ characters. We have a main character who is asexual but, as the book goes on, we see him begin to fall in love with another character and yet, is completely open about his asexuality. We, also, have two new characters who are lesbians and, though it's not said, is obvious to everyone that they are deeply in love with each other. These two characters I adore as they are so different to our main characters (no spoilers om who they are. Once you meet them, you'll see who I mean). 

Plus, I really like the handing of Tarisai not wanting children. I normally hate it when this is bought up in books/films/TV shows as within a few episodes/series, the character changes their mind and is desperate for children. I get that some women do go through this, but I see this happen in nearly everything. So, it was refreshing to have Tarisai talk about this to herself and to her main love interest in an open and frank way, as well as her admitting that her opinion on this issue might change in the future. 

There are one or two elements I wasn't that huge a fan of. I find the length of Tarisai behind haunted and the words "Do more... do more..." quite grating after a while (It did take me nearly a month to do this audiobook and I heard this at least once daily in my drive to/from work). And, also, there were things that I felt could have been strenched out more a lot more (the last few chapters, for example) and others that could have been shorten a fraction and I think that, maybe, this book should have been a tad longer. Not much, but just to give the book another breath of air. It all comes back to pacing for me, and yet, Jordan does so much within her pacing and leaves no stone unturned...

But saying that, this duology is one of the strongest-written YA fantasy duologies I have read in quite some time and, barring the pacing issues, I wholeheartedly recommend this. I can not wait to see what the author writes next! 

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