Hi friends! I hope you’re taking care and reading freaking wonderful books!
Today, I wanted to do another series review post, similar to the one I did for the These Violent Delights duology by Chloe Gong. And this time, I wanted to do the 𝑹𝒂𝒚𝒃𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒆𝒓 𝒅𝒖𝒐𝒍𝒐𝒈𝒚 𝒃𝒚 𝑱𝒐𝒓𝒅𝒂𝒏 𝑰𝒇𝒖𝒆𝒌𝒐. I read the first book in this series, 𝑹𝒂𝒚𝒃𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒆𝒓 the year it came out – which was in 2020 (here in Australia) and I went out a purchased it purely because Jessie from Bowties and Books sold me on it. It sounded like such an amazing young adult debut fantasy that I was immediately hooked. When I first read it, I gave it five stars and spoke about it as one of the most perfect debut young adult fantasy books I had read, just beating 𝑾𝒆 𝑯𝒖𝒏𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑭𝒍𝒂𝒎𝒆 𝒃𝒚 𝑯𝒂𝒇𝒔𝒂𝒉 𝑭𝒂𝒊𝒛𝒂𝒍. The writing, the character work and the world building were phenomenal and so utterly engaging and immersive.
𝑹𝒆𝒅𝒆𝒎𝒑𝒕𝒐𝒓, the sequel and conclusion to this duology came out towards the end of last year, but for some reason, I wasn’t able to get my preorder until early February of this year. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to find the perfect time to finish this duology and the time is now. Why? I have no idea, I just felt like it. There will be so many spoilers in this post.
Regardless of the fact that my rating changed upon my reread, 𝑹𝒂𝒚𝒃𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒆𝒓 𝒃𝒚 𝑱𝒐𝒓𝒅𝒂𝒏 𝑰𝒇𝒖𝒆𝒌𝒐 is a fantastic debut young adult fantasy novel. Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:
Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?
Tarisai, the main character and the sole narrator of the entire of the entire duology, was born to a mother known by everyone as The Lady. Tarisai grew up isolated, outside of the ordinary lives of the people of Swana (Tarisai’s home country in the Empire under the Kunleo dynasty). From the beginning, we as teh readers recongise that the relaitonship between Tarisai and her mother is complex and tense, one could describe it as abusive. Tarisai was createed for the one purpose to destroy the reigning Raybearer (the Emperor) thorugh killing his son, Ekundayo (or Dayo). Quite early on in the novel, Tarisai finds out that her mum enslaved and raped (it is rape, because Melu was under her command thus, extremely dubious consent) a divine-esque being named Melu, an alagbato, which every country in this empire has and each alagbato is responsible for the deep nature magic (I think?) of the land. Some alagbato’s are awake and well, others haven’t been seen for centuries. They were incredibly interesting, and I wish we got to see and understand them more.
Tarisai’s mother is clearly the ‘villian’ or is positioned as such especially in the beginning of the novel and we observe this toxic mother-duaghter relationship from Tarisai’s perspectve. Tarisai doesn’t really fully allow herself to recongise her mother as harming her metnally and emotionally, but the trauma is there and Tarisai tries to deal with it as best as she can.
But we soon find out that the system itself, a system in place for centuries that consistenly privileges masculine power and the assurance of wealth staying within the elite. This is to the detriment of all others.
Tarisai, having been chosen as a council member and eventually the Anointed One of Dayo, she grows up within this system, slowly learning about its flaws and its history which forced women into hiding – powerful women who were antithesis to how the Empire wanted women to be percieved; as strong and capable of leadership, of being a Raybearer.
The focus of this novel is Tarisai’s journey in becoming one of the eleven Anointed Ones of Dayo’s Raybearer council. You could possibly call this a sort-of coming of age fantasy, purely beause we follow Tarisai from a young child (around 10-12) to 17, and her growing relationshps with her other council memebrs and Dayo himself.
Considering we spend so much time with Tarisai’s council members though, her relationships with them are not as developed as I would have liked. These other characters almost felt two-dimensional. I wanted more of that ‘found family’ feeling that I was hoping for. To be honest, I forgot half of their names for most of the book, purely because they’re only just mentioned in passing half the time. We constantly get told how much they all love each other and are a family, but we don’t really see that developing on the page. There was a lot of telling and not showing. I’m not saying that we don’t get to read of any interactiosn and development of the relationships between Tarisai and the toher council members, only that it should have been more of a focus of the book.
And Tarisai is the only ‘active’ character in this book! Dayo does literally nothign and I can understand that this could be a deliberate element of his characterisation, to symbolise the legacy of his father and the men of the Kunleo dynasty; but he literally does nothing and I don’t quite understand the purpose of him being htere, other than a character to push Tarisai’s narrative forward.
The strongest aspect of this novel is the world building and the information we recieve pertaiing to the various cultures of the empire. So much care was taken in portraying the breadth and expanse of human experience, language and religion. It was just so freaking awesome and was honestly the best aspect of the novel.
There is a romantic element to this book but it happens in the periphery and it doesn’t necessarily add anything to the story, it’s just an adorable little add-on. It was cute. Sanjeet deserves more character development though – he was such a great character but again, was lowkey passive.
Quite an enjoyable read and would recommend for lovers of young adult fantasy! Off now to read the sequel…wish me luck!
So…I nearly DNF’d this book three times. How disappointing, right?
Immediately after beginning this book, I felt restless and bored. 𝑹𝒆𝒅𝒆𝒎𝒑𝒕𝒐𝒓 begins in the immediate aftermath of Raybearer. The first 200 pages? Nothing really happens. A lot of building up to something but that something IS SO ANTICLIMACTIC! Tarisai’s character felt strange, she almost felt more juvenile? The tropes that were being used were not interesting to me personally (but may work for you!), for instance:
- random love triangle (kind of? it was so weird)
- the “I’m a monster, I won’t ask for help or tell anyone the real truth because I’m a terrible person and deserve everything I get” but also “Let me have the freedom to do what I want, how dare you try to change me”.
So much was going on in this book but also nothing. My first major gripe with it has to do with me needing to manage my own expectations. Read this synopsis, and tell me what you think this book would mainly be about:
For the first time, an Empress Redemptor sits on Aritsar’s throne. To appease the sinister spirits of the dead, Tarisai must now anoint a council of her own, coming into her full power as a Raybearer. She must then descend into the Underworld, a sacrifice to end all future atrocities.
Tarisai is determined to survive. Or at least, that’s what she tells her increasingly distant circle of friends. Months into her shaky reign as empress, child spirits haunt her, demanding that she pay for past sins of the empire.
With the lives of her loved ones on the line, assassination attempts from unknown quarters, and a handsome new stranger she can’t quite trust . . . Tarisai fears the pressure may consume her. But in this finale to the Raybearer duology, Tarisai must learn whether to die for justice . . . or to live for it.
From my interpretation of the blurb, I thought the Underworld aspect would be much more of a central plot point than it actually was. It took around 350 pages for Tarisai to actually get to the Underworld and then we only spent maybe two or three chapters there. It felt too quick considering the Underworld was what the book was building up to and then it’s the end of the book and it’s done. What?! I felt a little bit robbed, to be honest.
Essentially, 𝑹𝒆𝒅𝒆𝒎𝒑𝒕𝒐𝒓 focuses on Tarisai as the Empress alongside Dayo as the Emperor, cousins in rule. For some reason that I forgot (or maybe it’s not every explicitly explained?) the Abiku (who are the demons of the Underworld) require Tarisai to create her own Raybearer council made up of the rulers of each country in the Empire. The creation of this council takes up most of the book but not in a way that really counts. We don’t really see Tarisai building these relationships! Similar to Raybearer, it just happens and we’re meant to believe it. The way that these scenes are written between Tarisai and her council felt like montage scenes, if that makes sense? We didn’t get to know these characters and it was just so frustrating! What was the point?!
I also did not understand the character of Zuri. Again, I felt like there were so many elements to 𝑹𝒆𝒅𝒆𝒎𝒑𝒕𝒐𝒓 that just didn’t necessarily work well together because not enough time was actually spent on developing not only the myriad of characters that were introduced (both old and new) such as Zuri, but also the other plot points that get introduced and forgotten. Like the alagbato’s waking up – what happened to that? I just felt like this book was written in a rush and it is such a disappointment especially since I really enjoyed Raybearer.
I should also say that I just find it weird when YA fantasy place 17 to 18 year olds in positions of such immense power, and though Tarisai tries with all of her might to change things, there’s no actual use of the council? Tarisai and Dayo, for instance, rarely sit down and discuss issues pertaining to the governance of the Empire? And then when Tarisai is organising the edict to place wealth back to the peasants and not the elite and corrupt (which hell yeah, welove to see it), the scene in which the elite can air the grievances called the Pinnacle resulted in…Tarisai using her abilities to enforce her own ruling??? Like, yes, these people were obviuosly being dicks but Tarisai was using the very power structures that she detested to enforce herself onto her people. I understand that it was for a great thing – these noble families needed to be stripped of their power – but it’s not as easy as snapping your fingers.
The political lacked nuance, essentially. But I am most likely reading too much into it lol.
Also, are we supposed to forget the fact that Tarisai literally brainwashed a woman into being nicer to others? Obviously this woman was being absolutely terrible BUT TARISAI TOOK THIS WOMAN’S FREE WILL??!?!?! There is a moment when Tarisai is like, ‘oh shit what have I done’ but then we just never talk about it again.
This just adds to my overall issue of 𝑹𝒆𝒅𝒆𝒎𝒑𝒕𝒐𝒓 being to rushed.
However, I am quite a critical reader and I don’t mean to be! But the issues that I personally had with this book doesn’t mean that I don’t think it’s a great series overall. The 𝑹𝒂𝒚𝒃𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒆𝒓 𝒅𝒖𝒐𝒍𝒐𝒈𝒚 𝒃𝒚 𝑱𝒐𝒓𝒅𝒂𝒏 𝑰𝒇𝒖𝒆𝒌𝒐 is one that I would recommend to readers who love young adult fantasy. I think that the history and cultural aspect of this series is so rich and wonderful that I don’t think many young adult fantasy books match up to. Tarisai as a character, especially in the first novel, is one of the best protagonists in YA fantasy. The focus of her character is her intelligence and her strength of self – she is so freaking awesome. Although I personally found her character development in Redemptor to be slightly strange, she is still a badass young woman.
In the end, I gave 𝑹𝒂𝒚𝒃𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒆𝒓 4 stars and 𝑹𝒆𝒅𝒆𝒎𝒑𝒕𝒐𝒓 3 stars. 𝑹𝒆𝒅𝒆𝒎𝒑𝒕𝒐𝒓 was definitely not as good as 𝑹𝒂𝒚𝒃𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒆𝒓, unfortunately.
But that’s it for today! I hope you enjoyed it! This post was just my opinion and if you loved everything about this duology then HELL YEAH! THAT’S AWESOME! Overall, I enjoyed it and I am so happy that I finished it!
I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend.
Until next time, happy reading!
All the love,