By Gayle Morrow
I am not a devoted fan of the fantasy genre so did not expect to care for this first in a series work by Rivera Sun. Instead I was captivated almost immediately.
The premise is a “lost heir” of a dead queen turning out to be a pixie, fairy-like young girl; fairly common type set-up in fantasy, a genre that allows women to receive their kudos. However, the underlining universal theme is the pull between violence and peace—how do we choose who represents violence, who represents non-violence, and who stands away avoiding the choice altogether? Is a world with no war even possible? Why do we revere the warriors and only give pittance to the peace makers?
The protagonist, Ari Ara, [translates to “not this not that”] who thinks herself an orphan, found and reared by the Fanten, is not allowed to be a part of their culture by Fanten Grandmother, who is of course harboring a secret.
In this world there are two “ways” a person can be born into: Attar is the Way of Blazing Fire that encompasses the warriors and protectors of the royal families. Anar is the Way of Shadows and its people stand away from war, but do nothing to stop it. Then there is the third way, a choice that very few in the history of the land have had the courage to follow—The Way Between, Azar, teaches peace and reconciliation.
This book begins with Ari Ara as an orphan and ends at the point that she learns her true story and fate. The characters are believable; even bullies, outsiders, and the physically impaired are represented. The story is well developed and, although easy to follow, certainly never becomes boring. There is a very helpful map at the beginning of Chapter One that I [visual person] referred to over and over to get a picture of the lay of the land, which is important to the development. The names of the physical features and places are not only delightful but plant a picture in your mind…Monk’s Hand Monastery, Forefinger Ridge, Monk’s Tears River…
I thoroughly enjoyed this opening story and look forward to the next in the series tackling more of humankind’s ancient yet still urgent questions regarding war and peace. I just Skyped with my 12-year-old grandson, total Harry Potter and series fan, who mentioned he was out of reading material, so sending this on to him. Thinking of it as Harry Potter with a contemporary message, and recommending it for twelve years, or precocious pre-teens, through adult. Five stars.