The Book’s Basics
Author: Jordan Ifueko
Series: Yes (thank goodness! I’m so excited for the next one!). This is the first book.
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Length: 496 pages
Initial Reaction: I really enjoyed this book.
Tarisai was raised away from other children. Her upbringing focused on learning, yet she yearned for her mother, The Lady, to return home to her.
Tarisai has an ability to read memories – from people and from objects. This results in the servants and tutors being afraid to touch her. She also learns early on that her father is an alagbato and her mother has one wish remaining – which has been passed on to her to fulfil.
The Lady shows her a picture of a boy and uses her final wish on Tarisai, telling her to kill him when she loves him and then she sends her off to the capitol with two strangers.
“When you love him the most, and when he anoints you as his own …” The Lady touched the boy’s face, blotting out his dazzling smile. “I command you to kill him.”Ifueko, Jordan. Raybearer . Bonnier Publishing Fiction. Kindle Edition.
Ifueko, Jordan. Raybearer . Bonnier Publishing Fiction. Kindle Edition.
She is to try to become one of the prince’s 11 trusted council members. The boy she is meant to kill turns out to be the prince.
While she is at the palace and competing, she becomes close with many of the other contestants and is thrilled to have social connections that she was denied while she was growing up.
But, due to The Lady’s wish, Tarisai’s conscience and strength are tested as they are in constant battle with the will of the wish to kill the prince.
Who would I recommend this book to?
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys YA fantasy. The pacing is excellent, which helped the story to move quickly.
The characterisation is phenomenal. All of the characters are distinct, even if we only get little glimmers of some of them. There is a romance element that is really cute.
Tarisai, the main character, is particularly interesting as she has endured so much but she is still caring while being strong. I think the tendency for strong female characters who have had difficult upbringings is for them to seem standoffish and cold, with occasional bursts of affection and kindness – even if they’re trying to save all of humanity. It’s understandable in a lot of cases – they have formed a figurative shell around themselves to stay protected from the outside world. Bella, Katniss, Aelin. And I love, or at least understand, them. I enjoy reading their stories.
Tarisai, though, is inherently and unapologetically kind without sacrificing any of her strength. She is often unsure and doesn’t always make the best choices, but she does always have the best intentions. She is exactly the kind of character I would have wanted to read the stories of when I was younger. Instead of shying away from the world, Tarisai does everything she can to embrace it and to connect with other people. Even though she has magic and has had a very isolated upbringing, she is a relatable character; she wants to belong and to be loved.
Dayo is another great character, and seems to be challenging the stereotype of black males being hyper-sexualised and aggressive in literature and other forms of media. He’s such a sweetheart and is a wonderful character on his own, but I think he can do a lot in terms of combating stereotypes in literature by just existing.
This book was inspired by African mythology. The only other YA fantasy book that I have read with a similar inspiration is Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. I have enjoyed both books immensely and am going to be on the lookout for similarly inspired books for future reads. (The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna looks to be along the same vein, so I’m hoping to read this one shortly!)
There is a lot of diversity in this book, which shows that it can be achieved in fantasy. Ifueko incorporates a wide variety of characters inspired from different cultures and there is brief LGBTQIA+ representation.
When I think of the most historically influential fantasy authors, I traditionally think of authors like J.R.R Tolkien, David Eddings, George R.R. Martin; white men. I have previously written about reading women authors and how it impacted my reading and my perspective. Having authors from a variety of backgrounds and experiences is important for many reasons: more stories being told, readers seeing themselves in stories, aspiring authors seeing someone with their background with a successful career – they’re all important. Literature, and culture as a result, becomes more enriched and more representative of an entire society as opposed to only a section of it.
In Raybearer, the diversity of characters feels intentional and also natural. It enhances the story and makes it feel more vibrant, more alive.
Lately, there have been more diverse stories in SFF, especially in film (Black Panther, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Space Sweepers). They are excellent stories and enrich all of the narratives that we tell and that will be told, and they make space for even more stories by traditionally marginalised creators – which everyone benefits from.