Half the population of the island of Madera are dead, killed by an unforgiving and indiscriminate plague. Oriana dreams of escaping her life of ruthless cruelty from the people who now rule over those who remain. No telling whom the plague will strike next, Oriana means to find freedom for herself and her people. Drawing strength from ancient tales of her enemy, young Oriana transforms herself from victim to warrior with the help of a mysterious and powerful dagger given to her by a kind and dying boy.
Years later, during her enemy’s betrothal ritual, Ezra, a boy she has never before seen, selects her as his mate. With servitude her only option, Oriana accepts the offer. Whisked away to a seemingly perfect world, Oriana discovers sinister secrets at every turn, including the identity of Tristan, a boy with whom she shares an undeniable but impossible connection.
Why would a boy she doesn’t know wish her to be his betrothed? Why does she feel such a strong pull toward a stranger? Someone in Ezra’s family not only knows the answer to both those questions, but also about the dagger Oriana possesses. He will do anything to stop the union. Now, with everything on the line, Oriana turns inward to find the strength she needs to seize the full power of the dagger so that she may protect herself and save her people.
Clare Di Liscia grew up near the hills surrounding Dodger Stadium. Enjoying the outdoors, Clare excelled in swimming, horseback riding and ice-skating. For University, Clare attended KU Leuven, in Belgium. She earned Dean's List recognition and a BA in screenwriting from Cal State Northridge Film School. She placed in the prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting. Her debut YA fantasy NELIEM won 1st place HM in the SCBWI's Sue Alexander and will be published Spring 2019 (Month9books).
******** UPDATE: 5/17/19 *************** After speaking with the publisher about some of my concerns with this book, I have decided to change my rating from 2 stars to 3 stars. The reason I originally had the lower rating is because of my concern that the ending romanticizes controlling and abusive relationships. However, after finding out there will be a second book in the series where things are not so clear AND re-reading the last few chapters of the book, I made the decision to change this to three stars, with the caveat that I hope to see the issues with this relationship addressed clearly in book 2. There is a lot to like here as I mention below, and I do think there is a case to be made that Orianna is still uncertain of her feelings and choices within the final two chapters of the book. I still feel that these issues should have been more clearly addressed in book 1, but am willing to keep reading and see what this author does moving forward. Thank you for your patience!
************************* Original Review ********************************
Nelium is an indie-published YA fantasy with romantic and thriller elements. It follows Oriana, a girl from a political and religious underclass, who is shocked when she is chosen during a ritual as mate by a mysterious young man who is one of the race oppressing her people. She enters a dangerous new world, all the while hiding her mysterious abilities.
In full disclosure, I was sent this book for review by the publisher and really wanted to love it. Unfortunately, while I think there is a lot to like, I had some problems with the positive portrayal of a relationship in the book that I feel is controlling and toxic. (hence the lower rating) Oriana's story is inspired by the history of Sephardic Jews and I thought much of this narrative was interesting and compelling. I will say, you are kind of thrown in with very little context at the beginning of the book and even if you read closely, you will still probably be a little confused. Many answers do eventually come, but I think it might have been better to have more explanation for the world and the magic system early on.
If it isn't clear from the description of the book, be aware that this book does lean heavily on the romance elements and that there is a love triangle that develops. There are also lots of side characters. Most characters in this book are pretty terrible people, but I also found them to be really interesting. As a Slytherin myself, I tend to enjoy reading about complex characters, villains, and anti-heroes and this book certainly delivers. In light of this, there are definitely content warnings for racialized violence, sexual harassment, threat of rape, off-the-page rape, thoughts of self-harm, depictions of blood, and attempted murder. Perhaps others as well. There is also some sexual content, although it is never super explicit. Additionally, a premium seems to be placed on the sexual "purity" of women by several male characters, although it is unclear what the authorial intent for this is. There are scenes that could be read as slut-shaming, or could simply be the cultural attitudes of the characters not being carefully framed.
Overall, I did mostly enjoy my experience of reading Nelium and think the book shows a lot of potential. However, I did have a big issue with the way this romanticizes controlling behavior and toxic relationships. More details below, but they are very spoilery so reader beware.
So here's the thing. Throughout the book, Orianna's relationship with Ezra is pretty suspect. He is manipulative and controlling, never letting her be herself and placing strict constraints on her behavior. She clearly has mixed feelings about him. When it is revealed that he is actually her childhood sweetheart (minus a lot of weight and other physical changes) it made sense to me that she would still feel drawn to him and have conflicted feelings about whether to leave him. But honestly, I just assumed that they would not end up together. Certainly not without a major conversation and significant behavioral changes on his part. So I was shocked when the very end of the book neatly wrapped up with them together and her choosing him as her "true, pure love". Especially given the younger target audience for this book, I just can't get behind something that glosses over and even romanticizes this kind of behavior. And it's really unfortunate, because up until the last few pages, I had mostly positive feelings about the book. I very much appreciate the publisher sending me a copy for review, but regretfully I can't wholeheartedly recommend this one.
Really good book. I got it on Thursday afternoon and had finished reading it by Friday evening. It's a page turner, couldn't put it down. A little romance, a little adventure, a little intrigue...just really a joy. Can't wait for a sequel or at least another book by this author.
I recommend giving Neliem a read! Over the last year or so of being retired, I have had the opportunity to read, read, and read for true pleasure without having to worry about writing book reports or giving oral presentations or being graded in any way. One book may lead directly to the next, often due to a side reference in the first. My tastes range from J. K. Rowling to Solzhenitsyn to Jon Meacham to Doris Kearns Goodwin to George R. R. Martin; anything is possible. I take input for my reading list from everywhere, and that includes Goodreads where I saw Neliem. I just finished reading Neliem and thoroughly enjoyed the story/adventure. Early on, I zeroed in on one facet of the writer’s detail: counting things like steps, doors, etc. because I too find myself counting things like these. It made me smile adding a bit of a personal connection; however, I am not nearly as adventurous as the story’s heroine. Could there be a sequel, or two? Maybe so. And if there is, or maybe another book with a totally different story, I will definitely give it a read.
I adored this book, loved loved loved it! The main characters were two of my favorite characters from YA books I've read to date. The character Oriana was so fierce, fiery, passionate, and elegant. The male character Ezra was sexy, sweet, strong, loving, severely devoted, and exquisitely patient. The story portrays a yummy romance that keeps you guessing while allowing you to savor each and every step until the glorious HEA. The storyline is filled with fun and often sexy scenarios. The writer takes the hearts of the characters and delves into their vulnerabilities, giving the story delicious twists and turns, and curls it all up in the end into love. The writer is very creative and a wonderful storyteller. You will not be disappointed in reading this book, I seriously didn't want it to end.
I'm so glad I got to read this book. First as a boy, I wondered if it was for me. It's a girl empowerment in a fantasy world that reads from like the early 1900's. Women are oppressed, and there's a really unfair class system. For Oriana, she fights the system without losing her dignity. It shows girls can be brave and smart and know how to defend themselves. She finds love, not what she expected, and their relationship is so realistic in that as I was reading, I saw it playing before my eyes. I like that Ezra was in a position to take advantage of her, yet respected her so much. He showed her love the only way she could accept: unconditionally. I guess you've figured out I really loved this book. It opened my eyes to so many injustices in not only the world in the book, but our own world. And it showed me how very different people can come together and find something good and lasting. Reading this book made me think outside the box, and I really hope you all get a chance to read it as well.
I was selected and given an advanced copy. The summary of the book was very interesting to me, I like to read all sorts of genres but I have definitely been in a fantasy mood lately. It's taken me a few days to write this review and I still am not sure I know exactly what I want to say. This book has so much potential. Really, it does. I liked the characters and it had a good core story; it just really missed the mark for me. I won't give any spoilers, but there was so much description in small, almost insignificant things, such as how many steps it would take to cross a room, how many exits, how to inflict the most pain, etc... and then more important parts needed way more description. I was left with so many questions. I would have gladly read another 100-200 pages to get the full story. There was so much talk for no action. As I had mentioned, describing exit points and inflicting pain, yet never did she act on any of it... Just a bit at the start then it was just wasted, with some mentions of how it helped her in the past, yet there was never really much detail into her past. I just felt it could have gone deeper. Strange things would happen (her thinking something and it would happen - or the star) and no explanation was given. Were all three of them Neliem? Is that even possible? Was it all Ezra doing it, or was it Tristan and her as well???? Why weren't there more spirits and ghosts? Why wasn't that described more? There were just too many points lightly brushed over. I'm all for imagination (hello, fantasy!) but this was too much. Could have been great, to me it was just OK. Even if there was a sequel, there shouldn't be so much left to explain.