This is an ambitious new fantasy from a first-time author. There are many extremely wonderful things about it, and a few shortcomings that seem almost inevitable when a first published work is on this scale. Thanks to the author for providing a review copy that makes this honest review possible.
This is a coming-of-age story set in a world that makes that process almost impossible, as though being an adolescent wasn’t hard enough. Rasia, the protagonist, is on a quest to not just survive, but thrive through the vicious Forging ritual. To do so, she has to work alongside some characters that are very different from her take-charge self. I loved Nico’s close relationship with her brother, and she was a great foil for Raisa.
Obey is, above all, a good writer. Her prose is tight and her sentences well-structured and nicely varied. Her scenes are varied and engaging, her characters believable and original.
This is also a truly unique and well-structured world. I loved the idea of children essentially being an oppressed class. It was an interesting take on dystopia that I’ve never seen before.
The shortcomings to me were primarily in the implementation of the worldbuilding. This book sorely needed a glossary, in my opinion. There were many in-universe terms that were introduced without ever being clearly defined, which made it very difficult to understand what was going on. This was particularly true with the use of pronouns. Although I think having a different pronoun structure than English is an amazing idea for a fantasy story, it was never clearly explained how this system worked, and words like “jih” and “tah” seemed to function as titles, relational descriptors, and pronouns. I love the idea of pronouns serving an entirely different function and being detached from gender roles, I just don’t think this was executed clearly enough to be effective.
There were also two scenes that made me pretty uncomfortable as a reader. I don’t usually care for explicit sex scenes in my fantasy, and these scenes were quite detailed. The young age of the characters made me really uncomfortable reading about their sexuality in such detail. Also, one character has an eating disorder, and I didn’t think enough time and attention was given to this issue (though I’m willing to admit I might be shaped by my own experiences).
Okay, that’s all my quibbles! Overall, this is a terrific new voice in fantasy and I look forward to seeing more in this world.