Published by Delacorte Press on October 11th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: the publisher, Free for Review
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Jae is a slave in a dying desert world.
Once verdant with water from a magical Well, the land is drying up, and no one remembers the magic needed to keep the water flowing. If a new source isn’t found soon, the people will perish. Jae doesn’t mind, in a way. By law, she is bound by a curse to obey every order given her, no matter how vile. At least in death, she’ll be free.
Lord Elan’s family rules the fading realm. He comes to the estate where Jae works, searching for the hidden magic needed to replenish the Well, but it’s Jae who finds it, and she who must wield it. Desperate to save his realm, Elan begs her to use it to locate the Well.
But why would a slave—abused, beaten, and treated as less than human—want to save the system that shackles her? Jae would rather see the world burn.
Though revenge clouds her vision, she agrees to help if the kingdom’s slaves are freed. Then Elan’s father arrives. The ruler’s cruelty knows no limits. He is determined that the class system will not change—and that Jae will remain a slave forever.
I received this book for free from the publisher, Free for Review in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Water is life. Nothing can live without water. In Jae’s world, water is provided by magical well. Except the wells are drying up and no one knows how to fix them. Her estate, Aredann, suffers under the loss of their well. Aredann is an estate far from the city center and it’s future is uncertain.
Jae is a Closest, a slave. Closest are cursed. They must obey. They have no choice but to follow every command given by an Avowed or a Highest. Disobedience is not an option. The curse forces them to surrender to every command. They can only speak when spoken to and must always answer a direct question with the truth.
Elan is a Highest Lord. He has lived in luxury his entire life with abundant water. Elan isn’t familiar with interacting with Closest. They are not allowed in the palace. Closest are thought to be dirty and only allowed to work the farms outside the city. He comes to Aredann looking for the source of the magic well spring. Once he is there, he is forced to acknowledge the truth about the cruelties of his society and his culture for the first time.
I loved that this book didn’t shy away from the disgusting and horrible reality that ultimate control would bring. With Closest forced to obey every command of an Avowed or a Highest, abuse and corruption run rampant. It’s very difficult to read at points. The Avowed live in a society where they don’t give the rape of Closest a second thought. Closest are there to serve, in all capacities. They aren’t people so it’s not a crime. It’s a terrible reason to love a book but it was dark, gritty and real.
I also loved the cultural differences between Avowed and Closest. Closest don’t ask each other direct questions. Direct questions are considered the height of rudeness. Closest are magically compelled to answer all direct questions with complete honesty. Imagine never being able to speak even a polite white lie. It’s a nightmare. The conversations between Closest were incredibly fun to read due to how the author danced around questions.
For me, the culture and the setting were the absolute high points of this book. The magic was a lower point. I like magic to have definitive rules and boundaries. Jae didn’t know or understand how magic worked, which makes some of it forgivable. However, despite having no idea what or how she was working magic, it always seemed to do exactly what she intended. I would have liked the magic to either be better explained or more unpredictable.
Either way, I really enjoyed this book. I’m definitely eagerly waiting on the sequel.