“My mother tried to kill me the night the guards arrested her.”*
As far as opening lines go, Mary Taranta hooks the reader into her debut YA fantasy the way Faris’ mother attempts to kill her at the age of six: with a knife to the heart. After stealing gold from their homeland of Brindaigel, Faris’ mother tries to sacrifice her daughter before her capture and execution. Then, at the age of sixteen, Faris’ lover is killed and her sister is taken away from her for trying to escape. Now hardened, Faris is willing to sacrifice everything to protect her younger sister, Cadence. After being magically bound to the princess, Bryn, Faris travels with her to find a king in nearby Avinea, despite the rumors that it is desolated by corrupt magic. On her journey, she learns the real history of her mother and of Brindaigel itself. In Shimmer and Burn, I found myself shaken by each plot twist and engaged by every fight or negotiation scene. Taranta’s biggests strengths as an author is her ability to layer plots; the function of magic and political history make this book satisfying at every turn.
Taranta has built a complex, cruel world. Inside of Brindaigel, children are killed or magically enslaved as population control disguised as punishment for their family’s crimes; magic shadow rats, birds and golems patrol the streets to spy on the people; those who try to escape are strung up as examples. In this kingdom there is no future; it is isolated in mountains and their king claims that it is unsafe to leave, year after year. But Princess Bryn, seventh in line to the throne, is determined to be queen. Using Cadence as leverage, Bryn convinces Faris to accompany her outside to Avinea, where magic is like opium; it is addictive and poisonous and spreading across the land. People trade it in blood and flesh and teeth, and the only other thing more valuable than magic is knowledge. Taranta constantly reminds us that the stakes are high and the consequences are deadly. Continue reading “Shimmer and Burn Review”