Enter a fantasy land of desert, tribal politics, the ruins of advanced magic or technology, and the goddess Kali whose chosen marksmen and markswomen live a life of mental and physical training to become superb warriors and assassins.
Kyra has just come back from a mark: a target she has been assigned to kill by the wise and deadly head of her order of Kali, the Mahimata. Only this was personal. Her mark was the son of the man, Kai Tau, who massacred her family.
But other things are afoot that eclipses her frustration at only being allowed this small amount of revenge. Her Mahimata is dropping strange hint about not being around forever and initiating Kyra into a mental discipline connected to the incredible knives, the katari, each of them are bonded to.
Meanwhile, across the desert, Rustan, an initiate in the only male order of Kali warriors, is having trouble with his own latest mark.
When Kyra and Rustan meet, they are at the nexus of incredible revelations about about their world and very nature of their order and enemies.
I thought long and hard about why I didn’t feel this was a 5 star book. It’s so very close. It has quite a lot going for it that I really liked. The world is layered, rich, anchored in Eastern mythologies, believable, and contains hints of very cool backstory in the abandoned magic/technology. In the end I think what it might be is that this world was so incredible, that Kyra’s personal journey felt like a bare framework in contrast.
There’s so much in Kyra’s backstory that I felt we got just a tiny glimpse. I never felt the kind of identification with her I wanted to and I think its because there was just so much going on that we never spent enough time with the different aspects of her life for me to feel the depth of her relationship with the Mahimata, or her feelings toward Rustan (too much summary of their training without enough actually getting to experience it in my book), the impact of her wanting revenge (this is mentioned a couple of times, but we don’t get to see how it impacts her life in the order), and the intriguing, super interesting way she is bonded with her katari.
And when things are finally getting very, very interesting, the book stops. Some people don’t mind cliffhangers, especially if the second book is out, but I am not the biggest fan. This book just needed to be longer, I felt. Longer with Kyra before events set her in motion, longer with Rustan on his journey to being a marksman, and definitely longer with the two of them together.
And yet all of my complaints above don’t outweigh my desire to find out the answers to the questions set up in this book about who the wyr-wolves the markswomen hunt truly are, what Kyra’s relationship to her Mahimata means, and if her enemies will go unpunished. While Kyra isn’t my favorite, the world she lives in is pretty cool. I’ll probably have to continue with the next book to find out what happens.