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Nothing is more important than loyalty.
But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?
Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself? With extraordinary world-building and breathtaking prose, Raybearer is the story of loyalty, fate, and the lengths we’re willing to go for the ones we love.

343 pages, Hardcover

First published August 18, 2020

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Jordan Ifueko

11 books2,058 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,097 reviews
Profile Image for chai ♡.
321 reviews156k followers
August 9, 2022
Oh, this was stunning. A beautiful, sweeping tale of revenge, betrayal, warring powers, unbreakable bonds, and the stinging weight of destiny that ticked every single box on the list of things I love most dearly about the genre: a deep, layered world-building, tenderly realized characters, a plot that never lags, and an emotionally and thematically vivid narrative.

At the heart of the novel is a sharp and thoughtful examination of empire, cultural imperialism, and how history can both immortalize stories and disappear them. Raybearer is a novel that understands the insidious power of empire, how it’s like a kind of poison that seeps into the groundwater, eating holes into the bulwarks of many cultures, and how it can be very, very convincing while it destroys them. The novel also speaks to many themes that we know all too well in the real world: about leadership and the tendency of the powerful to rationalize their own worst ideas without truly understanding the possibility of disaster; about patriarchy and its seamless continuity with imperialism; and about towering women with towering destinies who get written out of history.

These thematic and emotional sketches are made even more compelling with a rich cast of characters. I loved these characters. There's a vulnerability to them: they're so young and so stubborn and so wracked with troubled pasts and a bruised, wistful yearning for belonging, fighting not only to save themselves and each other but to save themselves and each other to a world “worth surviving in.” In that sense, Raybearer feels like a love letter to all the young people out there marching in the streets, speaking up against injustices, and holding themselves tall because they too refuse “to see the world as a small place, where nothing matters but [their] happiness.” The antagonists are gripping creations as well, and their slow unmasking throughout the story is both touching and terrifying. We see them yanked from their shells, all exposed flesh and raw nerves, shrunk down to something accessible and understandable in its undeniable humanity. Ifueko invites us to glimpse the world as they see it, made simple by fear and righteousness and fury, and we shake our heads in pity at some of them, roll our eyes at others, and wonder if we could ever forgive them.

All in all, Raybearer heralds a welcome new voice in fantasy. I'm so excited to read what Ifueko writes next!
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
614 reviews87.8k followers
March 12, 2021
This was so cool! I absolutely loved the world and the magic system. It was simultaneously intricate and unique, but also written in a way that made it really easy to absorb and get lost in. The characters were all super well developed and I loved following the relationships between them. There were some relationships I was expecting to go one way that didn't end up going that way and I was really grateful for that little twist. The fact that the story starts so early in the main character's life, and you follow the same cast throughout many years, just made me become very attached to everyone and watching them all develop as individuals. It was a really fascinating read overall, kept me on the edge of my seat and had a great mix of political intrigue in there. Not really what I was expecting, but in the best way possible!
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.6k followers
December 17, 2021
with such a pretty cover, i knew i wouldnt be able to stay away from this. and i love how well the cover art reflects the inner story. its really quite perfect.

ive read some of the 3 star reviews and it seems the reason why this didnt work out for some readers is exactly the reason why i enjoyed it. this story is very much plot driven with fast pacing. this is totally the kind of narrative i prefer. yes, that does tend to create some info-dumpy moments when it comes to world-building, but i honestly dont mind the trade off.

the magic system is cool, the concept of the ray and council members is unique, the culture is super rich, the characters feel real, and the writing is easy to read. there is just so much going for this story and i had a really good time with it overall. very easy to recommend!

4 stars
Profile Image for Bookishrealm.
2,084 reviews5,053 followers
August 16, 2020
What a PHENOMENAL YA debut fantasy! I mean I haven't read anything like this ever. And please please please if you read this book do not attempt to compare it to Children of Blood and Bone. 4.5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: parental emotional abuse, blood magic, death of children, rape

Thank you to Abram Books and Hear Our Voices Book Tour for allowing me to not only be a part of this tour, but also for providing me with an ARC. All thoughts are my own.

I don't know what I was expecting when I picked up Raybearer, but it was not this! Oh my goodness this book was AMAZING. Ifueko crafts this brilliant world where we find out that our main character Tarisai is being raised to not only become part of the crowned Prince's council of 11, but to also kill the prince. This novel is complex in so many different ways from the world building to the magic system. Although this book has some basis in West African myths and legends it does not put an emphasis on the Orisha which means that Ifueko created this brand new world in which the religions and customs and traditions of each realm were those that she developed herself. I know it must have taken a lot of time and consideration to build such a complex and intricate world. One of the most interesting aspects of this magic system is the "ray." Every crown prince in the empire is destined to connect to 11 members of the other realms. Each person represents a realm. As children they compete to connect to the prince through this Ray. The bond that they have is unlike anything that I have seen in any other book. And Ifueko utilizes this as an opportunity to illustrate the importance, the significance of friendships.

There are also some heavy themes covered in this book like generational trauma and identity as well as gender roles. The women in this book have to fight to define their place not only in their families, but in the empire as a whole. Tarisai has to learn to navigate and carve out her own life and purpose, one that is separate from The Lady's. Watching her develop as a character was such a beautiful experience especially since she has so many doubts about her identity and where she stands within her circle of friends. While there was a hint of romance in this book, I truly loved that Ifueko used the love found in friendships to help Tarisai figure out who she needed to be in this complex world. It made me root for all of them the entire way. Speaking of characters, Ifueko knows how to right complex and multi-dimensional characters. NO ONE and I mean absolutely no one was a black and white type of character. Everyone had character flaws and you could see how some characters were a product of the way in which they were treated by the generations that came before them. It makes you feel for characters that you would typically even consider the villians.

The only criticism that I have of this book is the pacing. I found parts of the beginning to be rather slow, but when the action picked up I'm tell you I couldn't put this book down. There were so many twists and turns that genuinely caught me by surprise. There was no way I could have figured out how everyone was connected in this book and that's only half of thrill of this book. If you haven't picked up this book please I'm begging you to purchase it when it comes out. It's definitely well worth a read.
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews157k followers
March 9, 2021
4.5 stars

December Tierlist Vlog is up! Click the link to see the video review of all the books read in December!
The Written Review
Tarisai has had an... unusual ...childhood.

She's spent it isolated in a mansion, surrounded by servants afraid to touch her and desperately wanting the love of "The Lady" (who is the closest to a 'mother' that Tarisai has ever seen).

Once The Lady deems Tarisai old enough, she's sent to the capital of the Aritsar empire to compete with children all over to become one of the 11.

In this world, the princes and kings are surrounded by their council of 11 - each of which has a unique gift (like strength, or speed) and have absolute and unwavering loyalty to their ruler. Once a ruler has his council, the emperor is immune to all forms of death except old age.

If Tarisai is picked, then she will devote her life (willingly) to the crown prince but very quickly she realizes that her fond memories of "The Lady" don't match up with The Lady's true intentions.

As Tarisai bonds with the crown prince, she becomes aware that every moment spent with him is a step closer to his death.

Overall - this was a pretty dang good book.

The world was richly done and compelling to read. The way gods interwove with humans felt natural and was fascinating to watch.

I loved the way magic was portrayed in this book - the little (and big) powers that the children had were really neat to learn about.

Tarisai's character felt very real to me, and so did the crown prince. The other characters were a bit more like blips on the background and I wish I could've known them on a deeper level.

I did feel a bit disappointed by the last quarter of the book.

I kinda liked the direction the book was going but then the social and political issues started growing exponentially and I could feel myself tuning out a bit (I'm not a big politics reader).

Overall, I did rather enjoy this book though! Definitely check it out if it sounds interesting to you!!

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,173 reviews8,383 followers
August 24, 2021
This has to be one of the best YA fantasy novels I’ve ever read. I need the sequel now! August can’t come fast enough. In fact, after I finished it I went back and re-read the whole first chapter...very tempted to do a re-read immediately after which NEVER happens. But I'll hold off and probably do a re-read before Redemptor comes out!

What is Raybearer about?
Well, it follows a young girl name Tarisai who was raised in isolation with only her tutors and caretakers. No other children were around, and she rarely saw her mother whom she only knows as 'The Lady.' One night she sneaks out of her walled-in mansion of a home and discovers a secret about her inception that changes her fate forever. From there she's thrust into her journey of self-discovery as she travels to the capital and vies for a chance to be part of the Crown Prince's council of elders. In this world, each Emperor has a gift called the Ray in which he selects eleven elders—one from each region of their world—to form a council that can hear each others' thoughts, share emotions and rule together. Tarisai is commanded by her mother to attempt to infiltrate the prince's council so that she can earn his trust...and kill him.

That's all I will say about the plot because there is SO much wonderful, intricate but never confusing world-building in this novel. Jordan Ifueko has crafted a world that's reminiscent of many fantasy worlds you have seen before but still something all its own. I think that familiarity makes it easy to sink into, but it's uniqueness keeps you turning the page to discover a rich and incredible fantasy world heavily inspired by West Africa.

Somehow she's balanced rich characters, a compelling and twisty plot, and a beautifully created world that makes for a knockout of a novel. And it's all in about 380 pages! I honestly am shocked she made something with such depth and breadth in less than 400 pages, especially in the fantasy genre. It's massively impressive. I think the decision to make it a duology is so smart because while this novel has a great conclusion and a satisfying ending, it clearly sets up the plot for book 2 and I cannot wait to see how it ends. It seems like Ifueko had both books planned out before she wrote Raybearer which I appreciate so much.

Overall, I can't recommend this novel enough. If you like fantasy of any kind (adult or YA) I think you should read this. If you're looking for something unique, exciting, heart-breaking and yet uplifting, this is the book for you.
Profile Image for Shealea.
449 reviews1,218 followers
May 9, 2021
Here it is, the best fantasy I'll ever read in 2020.

I finished Raybearer at around 3:30 AM. But I needed a good night's sleep to process my initial thoughts:
Profile Image for Warda.
1,208 reviews19.7k followers
August 25, 2021
Unpopular opinion time. I hate this feeling.

But I’m feeling so conflicted, it’s unreal.

I broke up with YA fantasy a while ago. I’ve been sticking to authors that do it well enough for me and have been reluctant to rekindle that relationship with the newer YA fantasy books that have been getting released these past few years.

Now, I did perhaps place a bit too much hope and expectation on this book. The expectation that this story might possibly revive my love for YA fantasy again, like my good ol’ young'un days. I’m not sure whether this was achieved.

And it’s not to say that there wasn’t some great aspects to this story. The first half or so had me almost captivated. It seemed to put a unique twist to the typical trope we see in fantasy: someone is saving the world from evil and destruction.
I enjoyed the writing, the African folklore, the magic system, the world building (till it got confusing), the themes of trauma and mental health amongst other things and the characterisation.

But then all the reasons that made me lose interest in this genre in the first place started appearing. The plot took centre stage. It was too fast paced for my liking. We’re jumping from one thing to the next and it didn’t allow for me to absorb the story and take in the world. The times that it did slow down, I was getting bombarded with world-building elements that were so boringly told, it took me out of the story instead of feeling immersed in it. I couldn’t latch on. It was doing too much and it read messy, so my interest began to wane.

I think I should go back to breaking up with YA fantasy (particularly the new ones) for real this time. I want to say it’s me. But it’s you too.
Profile Image for Rebecca Roanhorse.
Author 55 books8,068 followers
August 24, 2020
A really unique and intricately plotted YA fantasy that was like nothing I've ever read. I absolutely love when I am surprised by a book, and this one definitely did that. The worldbuilding and magic system were wonderfully creative, my only caveat being the stand-in cultures = world cultures; that was definitely my least favorite element. (However, if the reasoning was to show the breadth of the empire, I get it. I just thought it was a bit lazy.) But the primary setting and culture of our protagonist and the emperor was lovely, particularly Storyland. I loved the mythos of this world, and how it differed from culture to culture, and perhaps from the truth. It made the world feel real and lived in. I adored the antagonist and the complicated loyalties and relationships there, and appreciated that characters were allowed to remain complex and not easily categorized or dismissed. My only real complaint was the pacing lagged in some places, which was surprising since the story was non-stop action. So, really, YMMV on that. Bottom line, I highly recommend. A wonderful story.
Profile Image for Tricia Levenseller.
Author 16 books13.4k followers
May 3, 2021
This is the best book I’ve read so far this year! I loved losing myself in this rich world. It was so unique and unlike anything I’ve read. If you like unique magic and world building, sweet romance, and fierce heroines, this one is for you!
Profile Image for Holly.
1,449 reviews1,091 followers
April 5, 2021
Note to self: STOP READING YA BOOKS. I'm not sure at what age most YA books become underwhelming, but for me, I have apparently already passed that point. The only one I have read and really liked this year was Pawn. That's exactly one out of nine YA books (including this one). It's no longer worth it to me to wade through YA books to find the ones I consider gems.

As far as the review for this actual book:
- Absolutely go the audiobook route. There's several little 'songs' in the book and the narrator does a great job with them.
- The main issue I have is a plot hole that I just couldn't get past
- I didn't realize this was the first book in a series and so a huge part of the story is not wrapped up, much to my dismay.
Profile Image for Jthbooks.
142 reviews61 followers
March 21, 2022
Profile Image for abthebooknerd.
294 reviews144 followers
October 13, 2020
As magical as The Lion King, and as luscious as The Wrath and the Dawn—a simply refreshing debut teeming with life, love, and color.

In the global empire of Aritsar, love-starved Tarisai is compelled by her mother to join the council of a divine Crown Prince. Her mission? Earn his trust. Fall in love. And when the time is right. . . Kill him.

I don't even know where to begin. . . This book felt like a hug. Like a warm, magical hug.

Tar (Tarisai) is a ferociously loyal and kind heroine—almost to a fault. She is fiercely protective of those she loves, and would quite literally die for her friends. My heart ached in reading about her loneliness towards the beginning of the book. Whether intentional or not by the author, the magical circumstances in which Tar undergoes is a great representation of harm OCD. I found myself sending highlighted moments of the texts to my mental health buddies going: "OMG! This is it! She's describing what it feels like!"

Overall, she was just such a sweet, powerful character. Through her Hallow (power), she is able to see the history of people, and objects. Because of this, Tar has learned to see the world and everyone in it as stories. It adds this extremely empathic softness to her character that I found beautiful, because of her lonely past.

"'Wherever I come from,' I told Kirah as irubo dancers whirled around us, 'I think music was forbidden. Whenever I hear a song, it feels like I'm stealing something.'"

Let me also say: a lot happens in this book. A LOT. It definitely does not follow the traditional YA plot or pacing, whatsoever. The time jumps in the first part did take a little to get used to and made me feel as if we were missing out on some key characterization, but it only added more depth to the tale.

I've never read anything inspired by West African folklore, and apparently, I need to read more about these types of fantasies because—I AM OBSESSED; from everything to the tutsu sprites, the Ray magic, the animals, the vibrant settings. Just. . . ALL OF THE THINGS. They were so beautifully written, and I felt like I was there; as if I could feel the warm breeze, and the aroma of the villages, and the spirit of the people.

Tar's relationship with Sanjeet was also adorable. We love a brooding, secretly fuzzy-boy. And not to mention, Tar's many other friendships with the rest of the council, especially Kirah. I also love Woo In and Kirah's little romance ? With my entire soul ? My only complaint is that I wish we had gotten to know more about the rest of the council members, and their stories! Who knows? Maybe we will in the next book *fingers-crossed*

Also, can we talk about The Lady (Tar's mother)? She was such an intriguing anti-heroine. The complexity of her relationship with her own daughter was confounding, and heart-breaking.

Another great aspect was the storytelling through song. A HUGE round of applause for Ifueko's writing on the tiny little snippets of lyrics that are littered like delightful, little poetic treasures throughout the book. It only further enriches the world:

"Drums beat out the introduction for the day's catechism:
T-dak-a, tdak-a. Gun, bow-bowbow. Hear the sacred story of creation.

'Queen Earth and King Water are lovers,' sang one priest, as the other kept time on an hourglass-shaped talking drum. 'Their children are many. Trees. Rivers. Creatures that creep, kedu, kedu, and swim, shwe, shwe...'"

We desperately need more books such as these in the YA genre. I can't wait for book two!

A BIG thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for sending me an ARC copy of this book!
Profile Image for literarylesbian.
226 reviews2,533 followers
July 4, 2021

Beautifully written story with a really gripping plot and cast of characters.
Profile Image for Jorie.
334 reviews69 followers
July 23, 2023
Raybearer is a good fantasy book, but it's disorganized. It opens and ends strong, but there were some choices along the way that threw me off.

There are 3 key things to know about protagonist Tarisai:

1. She has special powers from special parents,
2. She is to participate in a competition to select the crown prince's future council, and
3. She must obey her mother's command to kill said crown prince or else.

This is a solid framework for a story; each piece fits so perfectly with the others that it really writes itself.

But then some choices were made~

Choice #1

Choice #2

Choice #3

Choice #4

Semi-Choice #5 - something that might be addressed in Redemptor

Regardless of these choices, Raybearer remains a solid YA fantasy, and among the better ones. I enjoyed it, despite some side-eye ;)
Profile Image for Toni.
515 reviews
August 20, 2022
Simply fabulous! So glad Yesha and I shared this reading experience.
Profile Image for Zitong Ren.
504 reviews158 followers
December 2, 2020
I generally am often disappointed with YA fantasy, because a lot of it limited worldbuilding, a good dose of instalove and a fairly generic plot. This wasn’t always the case, but as I’ve read more and YA fantasy, the more I have often been dissatisfied with many books in the genre. So, Raybearer was an absolute delight and considering it is a debut, I cannot wait to see what the Ifueko will be writing in the future. This was simply such a lush and magical fantasy book and I ended up really enjoying it.

It is based off, or at least inspired by Western and Eastern African cultures, which I don’t know much about at all, so for me, the worldbuilding was incredibly interesting, rich and lush. It’s just really great seeing new authors telling stories about their cultures and it also means that I have so much more to learn about the world and all the fascinating cultures that I have yet to learn much about. All I can really say about the worldbuilding was that I really liked it and liked the concepts, and for, it was totally original, but for others it may not be that are educated on West African history, myths and lore.

The plot was really good, and it takes place over a span of several years, which isn’t normally done in YA fantasy and starts off more as a middle grade as we follow the characters childhood, which gave much more depth to the character and it was meaningful to the main storyline. The main character was also really well written and all the side characters, like Sanjeet, Dayo and Kirah was also really interesting to follow.

It is told from the first-person perspective, which isn’t always my favourite, partly because it presents a skewed view and also because everything is centred on the main character and we don’t really get to see or feel what everyone else is going through. That being said, just due to the nature of the story being told, I do think that this story being told in first-person was the right thing to do, as despite it taking place on a massive world, it is also sort of a contained story in some regards in that almost everything that happens is directly related to the protagonist Tarisai.

I did originally give this a five star, but after thinking over it, it’s probably more of a four star for me. I still loved the book - but I just don’t feel that it was quite a five star. I’m still going to recommend it because it is brilliant YA fantasy and this book does so many great things for the genre as a whole moving forward as it continues to diversify as and we see a broader view of voices, which is fantastic.

The ending was really good, if not somewhat predictable in some areas(not all, I didn’t see many things coming at all) and I assume that there’ll be a sequel because the author better not leave me on that ending. It is finalised enough for this book, but I also really want to know what is going to happen to all these fantastic characters. The plot also subverted some tropes so some things took me by surprise, and I was glad by that as it made certain things more interesting and made the character dynamics and relationships much better.

So overall, this was great, and I look forward to reading more works by this author in the future. 8.5/10
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,203 reviews3,682 followers
May 10, 2020
"What if you were sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?"

Raybearer is an impressive debut with an immersive world, complex characters, and an unexpected plot. It is well worth your time. This African-inspired fantasy is much more than cookie-cutter YA, offering thoughtful thematic content that explores misogyny, patriarchal structures, race and class inequality, empire and colonization, generational trauma, privilege, and the criminalization of young men of color. It's also a thrilling story with unexpected twists and a fierce heroine determined to forge her own path, despite everything.

Tarisai grew up starved for touch and longing for love from her distant mother. What she doesn't know is she is essentially half-jinn, born of her mothers wish that she kill the prince after learning to love him and join his council. The plot is juicy, complicated, and doesn't go the way you think it will. There are wonderful side characters, friendships, forbidden romance, a soft Black boy who is pushed toward violence because of his physical size, scenes involving hair braiding, a dangerous underworld, lush descriptions, interesting magic, political intrigue, hidden secrets, and history rewritten by victors. It's smart and fun, and Jordan Ifueko is one to watch if this book is any indication. I received an advance copy of this book for review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

CW include violence, child abuse, attempted murder, drugging, manipulation, death, enslavement of djinn, references to police violence, death of children.
Profile Image for JustJJ.
119 reviews163 followers
November 17, 2021
This review and others @Bookerification

Rating: 4 stars

‘Raybearer’ is a book I knew I would like right after hearing the author’s dedication:

“For the kid scanning fairy tales for a hero with a face like theirs. And for the girls whose stories we compressed into pities and wonders, triumphs and cautions, without asking, even once, for their names.”

Sure enough, Jordan Ifueko’s vivid and smooth writing style did not disappoint! The world she presented is rich in creativity, history, and intricacy. I especially loved the references to West-African folklore and culture as these add an extra layer of freshness and originality. The magic system infused into this world was also complex yet easy to grasp. Besides having characters with special powers, Jordan introduces the concept of the Ray - a lifelong bond that connects the characters in a remarkable way.

My only issue with the world-building is that it was mainly conveyed in bursts of information. This was particularly noticeable at the start where readers are bombarded with lots of information about the world and its main character. Whilst, Jordan certainly tries to deliver the information creatively in bite-sized pieces, I could not help but clock each torrent of new information.

Our heroine, Tarisai, is an amazing character who is caring and loving but also clever and strong-willed. As a proud woman of colour, I certainly love the representation her character brings to the genre of Young Adult (YA) Fantasy. However, I was somewhat disappointed by the number of YA tropes found in Tarisai’s character.

She is yet another female lead with childhood trauma that they have to overcome in order to find their place and path in the world. And, of course this path turns out to be far bigger and more important than it initially appears. This does not mean that Tarisai’s journey in this book was uninteresting or predictable. In fact, since this book spans several years, I ended up feeling really connected and invested in her character.

What I love most about Tarisai’s journey is how it is used to creatively explore various themes such as patriarchy, revenge, family trauma and colonialism. These themes help create a strong character-driven story that certainly kept me engaged.

“She would have us be masters of our own fates, whether we like it or not.”

Ultimately, ‘Raybearer’ is a strong West-African inspired YA debut with a fascinating world and main character. While the story within its pages may not be fast-paced or action-packed, it cleverly explores various themes which strengthen the character-driven plot. Fortunately, the next book is already out so I have that to look forward to!


RTC @ Bookerification

Rating: 4 stars
“we can't defeat monsters we won't face”
Profile Image for Grace (kanej & evajacks' version) .
282 reviews205 followers
August 6, 2022
WOW. This was amazing! I dunno what I was expecting from Raybearer, but I had no idea I would get such a gorgeous story! This DEFINITELY surpassed my expectations. :)

Although the beginning felt a little rushed and meh, it soon picked up and I was glued to the page. Tarisai's adventures were so enjoyable to read, especially with the beautiful descriptions of the culture and kingdoms of Aritsar along the way. Jordan Ifeuko's writing was practically flawless- it had a rather simplistic style, but with those lush, gorgeous descriptions lending it a magical touch. The worldbuilding was immaculate, with so many little details about the kingdom to enjoy. The food, the clothes, the griot songs- everything was so well-developed and unique. I loved it.

The characters were also really good. Tarisai was a very well-developed heroine, who seemed very human and REAL. She made many mistakes, but she eventually learned how to pick herself up and keep going, fighting to rectify those mistakes. Her determination to bring peace to Aritsar was awe-inspiring. I loved her as our protagonist.

The other characters, such as Dayo, Sanjeet and Kirah, were also great, all with their own distinct personalities. Jordan Ifueko did a great job making them all likeable and well-rounded. The Lady, Tarisai's mother, was a very fascinating character, as there were so many layers to her. I liked how she as a character showed that there was a grey area between wrong and right. This helped to make the story feel more realistic.

The themes discussed, such as erasing people's cultures and misogyny, are really important and were handled really well, bringing the terribleness of them to light. Jordan Ifueko integrated them beautifully into the story.

The only real issue I had with Raybearer was the pacing. In the beginning, there were frequent time skips, meaning there would often be months and years between chapters. This was disconcerting and made it difficult for me to connect with the characters. However, by the halfway mark, the pacing had evened out and I was connected to the characters more. Therefore it wasn't a huge issue.

Overall, a lush, beautiful fantasy that surpassed my expectations by a mile. After that ending, I NEED to find out what happens next and can't wait to get my hands on the sequel, Redemptor!

"I don't know what I want. I only know the world is big and I'm sick of pretending it's smaller."

~ 4 stars
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,520 reviews8,993 followers
September 17, 2021
3.5 stars

I liked so many aspects of Raybearer: a determined main character who grows throughout the novel, a well-balanced group of friends and a romance that does not take up too much space, and themes related to loyalty, destiny, and gender inequity. I appreciated how Jordan Ifueko included asexual representation and some interesting commentary about state repression of people’s dissent. The ending surprised me in a pleasant way with its more thrilling execution, which made me curious about the sequel to this book.

The reason I do not rate this book higher is because I felt that a lot of the book’s events came across as predictable. The majority of the conflict in the novel did not come across as high stakes to me because I could assume early on how they’d be resolved. While Ifueko ended Raybearer on a high note, I wanted more of that tenseness and surprise throughout the book, even if this first book served to set the stage for future installments.

Overall, would recommend to fans of young-adult fantasy who find the book’s synopsis interesting.
Profile Image for Hayley.
Author 2 books4,271 followers
May 6, 2023
this book refreshed my view on fantasy. what a stunning, brilliant debut!!
Profile Image for Gail Levine.
Author 68 books8,868 followers
January 23, 2021
Very exciting! And a cast of lovable characters! And important themes: truth-telling and the use of power.
Profile Image for Maryam.
270 reviews164 followers
August 26, 2021
This book is a hidden gem, alright! I was completely into it from the very first chapter. What caught my attention first was the beautiful writing and the whimsical setting. Then I fell in love with the rest of it😍

What’s this book about? Raybearer follows Tarisai, a young girl bound by a magical wish by her absent and distant mother: kill the Crown Prince. When Tarisai is sent to the capital to compete to be part of the Crown Prince's council, Tarisai finally finds what she had always craved: love, belonging, connection.

➪ First of all, the world of Raybearer has become one of my absolute favorite high fantasy worlds. It’s just so rich and beautiful. It’s inspired by West African folklore and I was so completely engrossed in the tutsu sprites, the Ray magic and the idea of Raybearers and their council of Eleven, the alagbatos and the animals and the vibrant sitting...I loved the culture and the history behind every Arit realm. I loved their traditions and their fashions and all the diversity. What made it even more beautiful is the lovely writing style, it made everything come to life. The descriptions were so warm and rich that the world felt like a burst of colors. I was fascinated by every little detail.

➪ The magic system was so fascinating. I found the idea of Raybearers and their council of Eleven so interesting and unlike any I’ve ever read before. Hear me out: Raybearers are the rulers of the Arit empire and each Raybearer has a Council of Eleven who will swear to love him and be loyal only to him. And for every council member the Raybearer anoints into his council, the Raybearer will be immune to one death. Once the Council of Eleven is formed, they will be united together by the magic of the Ray, allowing them to join minds together with the Raybearer. How awesome is that? What’s even more fascinating is that every council member needs to have a Hallow, which is a kind of unique power. It can be anything from being able to see the memories of every object or person you touch, to being able to heal with a song, to fly or change shape, etc...I absolutely LOVED this concept. This book is just so magical😍

➪ You love the found family trope? then THIS book is for you! Tarisai will form a family with her council siblings, each one from a different Arit realm, and I just absolutely loved their relationship together especially Tarisai, Sanjeet, Kirah and Dayo’s relationship with each other. They really were like a family and they cared and loved each other so much! They would do anything for each other🥺❤️

➪ Tarisai was an AMAZING main character. We start with her as an 11 year-old girl, preparing to become a council member, and we follow her through the years until she’s 16 years-old. I thought that she was such a smart, strong, loyal and kind heroine. She would do anything for her new family; especially after she was isolated and left alone for most of her childhood. She loved Dayo and her council siblings so fiercely that I had to admire her. I never once thought she was immature or that she made stupid decisions; she was 16 years old but it didn’t feel like she was that young and I loved that!

➪ The plot was very well-written and the book was packed with action. A lot of things happened through out the book and there were quite a few plot twists that left me reeling and made me want to never put the it down and just FINISH IT. It was so freaking enjoyable and I did not want it to end.

➪ There was also romance and it was so freaking cute but it did not take over the plot or felt like it was overshadowing the important things happening which I also loved. Also it isn’t your typical YA book where the MC falls in love with the Prince. It’s so different and unexpected in a good way😍

➪ I wanted to highlight a part of the culture that I loved which is telling stories through songs. Griots were singers of histories and stories, the most sacred of Arit priests. There were little snippets of lovely poetry throughout the book that I thought were a very lovely addition to the story.

➪ All in all, reading this book was a wonderful experience. It was so good and enjoyable, I did not want to put it down. I truly loved everything; from the world and the magic to the characters and their relationships and stories to the beautiful writing style and the engaging plot...This book SHOULD NOT be missed!😍❤️
Profile Image for Charlotte Kersten.
Author 3 books467 followers
February 7, 2022
“Uniformity is not unity. Silence is not peace.”

So What’s It About?

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

What I Thought

I keep telling myself that I don’t enjoy YA fantasy anymore, but I often seem to find my way back to it when I’m in need of comfort, and every now and again I find that odd gem that proves the exception to my “I’m too grown up to enjoy this” rule. Raybearer is one of those exceptions, and it has a great deal going for it.

The characterization is generally solid within the main cast, with a number of very lovable characters. As a child who has experienced neglect, Tarisai’s longing for connection rings true, as does her struggle to believe that she can be more than her mother was and more than her mother shaped her to be; it’s wonderful to see her push through this. The mother in question, The Lady, turns out to be a refreshingly nuanced character - she was treated unjustly by her family and exiled to struggle by herself and did a number of terrible things in pursuit of her goals, from lying to Woo In about the Songland treaty to enslaving Melu and turning her daughter into a weapon. Her outer mask of elegance and efficiency hides her secret affections and stirrings of conscience, which she tries her best to convince herself do not matter with placations and lies.

The found family that Tarisai joins is well-developed when it comes to the inner circle of Dayo, Kirah and Sanjeet, but the rest of the council end up being little more than caricatures who appear briefly. I am never particularly fond of romantic subplots in YA fantasies, but the relationship with Sanjeet was one of the better I’ve read, with only a bit of requisite angst. The general concept of the Raybearer and council is a very cool one.

There are effective examinations of feminism and imperialism for the age group, with powerful women being erased from history being a recurring theme and the empire sacrificing Songland children and trying to enforce cultural assimilation with martial crackdowns. I’ll be interested to see how these themes progress in the sequel. As a final note, I thought that the mechanics of the Lady’s wish ended up being quite convenient because Tarisai only has to obey it when she is physically in Dayo’s presence and she can resist it with enough strength of will. Overall, this is a vivid, exciting story with a lot to recommend it. I’ll be reading the sequel soon.
Profile Image for CW ✨.
669 reviews1,713 followers
September 5, 2020
Read my full review on my book blog, The Quiet Pond.

Wow... what an amazing book.
This is the sort of book where how long it is doesn't matter - once you're pulled into its incredible story, you're on the ride and you'll follow Ifueko no matter where she takes the story. I'm in awe of this debut.

- Follows Tarisai, a girl who wants nothing more than the love and warmth of family. When her mother, known as 'The Lady', sends her to compete with other children to become part of the Crown Prince's Council, she also sends her on a mission to kill him.
- So, the above is only but a glimpse of the story. Because what develops and follows is this amazing story about found family, justice, revenge, culture, love in all forms... so many things.
- I really feel like I've gone on this incredible journey. The storytelling is PHENOMENAL; the pacing is one of the best I've read in a long time (I can't believe that this book is only 368 pages for the amount of detail in this book), the way Ifueko weaves all these plot points to come together in a powerful and immaculate way... wow. I'm just! in awe!
- The worldbuilding was sublime. The world felt so immense, never underdeveloped nor 'too mysterious to make up for depth' and the magic - called 'hollows' - was amazing.
- Oh the characters. Wow! It feels like I grew up with these characters. All were so complex and interesting and so well developed. Again! I'm in awe!

I've probably used the words amazing so much because, guess what! IT'S AMAZING. READ IT.

Thank you to Libro.fm for providing me with an audio listening copy!

Trigger/content warning:
Profile Image for Fadwa (Word Wonders).
547 reviews3,523 followers
April 5, 2021
I'm updating this months after finishing the book so no thoughts head empty, but just know this book lives in my head rent free. It's excellent, and the best YA fantasy I have read in a while. Its multi-layered-ness is immaculate.
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