In the daring new read, acclaimed author Mindee Arnett thrusts readers into a beautiful, dangerous, and magical world in this stunningly epic and romantic fantasy for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Sarah Raasch. Onyx and Ivory by Mindee Arnett was released in North America on May 15, 2018, and while I was hesitantly optimistic about this one, I am so glad that it was included in the May 2018 FairyLoot, because I absolutely loved this book!
They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king of Rime. Cast out of the nobility, Kate now works for the royal courier service. Only the most skilled ride for the Relay and only the fastest survive, for when night falls, the drakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: She is a wilder, born with forbidden magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals. And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by drakes in broad daylight—the only survivor Corwin Tormaine, the son of the king. Her first love, the boy she swore to forget after he condemned her father to death. With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin must put the past behind them to face this new threat and an even darker menace stirring in the kingdom.
(Cover Photo Credits: Paws & Paperbacks)
As stated above, I absolutely loved Onyx and Ivory by Mindee Arnett. This is a fresh, classic, page-turning blend of monsters, magic, and romance. I could not get enough of this creative and fresh story, and I simply loved the characters, the magic, and the settings.
Beginning with the characters, I really found that Arnett had developed characters that were well defined with distinct personalities and interrelationships that created a weaving and twisting plot that will leave readers wanting to read just one more chapter before putting it down. Furthermore, I found Kate and Corwin very relatable and human, while I adored their friends, Signe, Bonner and Dal. Both Kate and Corwin were strong narrators with compelling arcs of their own, plus the storyline of their re-building relationship.
Kate is an exceptional female lead that will ensnare readers with her grit, humanity, and flaws. Her story is one of loss and prosecution, following the loss of the life she knew and her family, and the constant fear of prosecution for what she is – a powerful wilder hiding in a nation that despises her kind. Despite this, Kate is initially a passive observer to this oppression, hiding behind the safety of anonymity. However, throughout Onyx and Ivory, Kate increasingly witnesses the harsh realities of what this type of persecution, based on nothing more than fear, is like for those who have not had this type of shield. Once she is thrown back into life alongside those in power, she begins to see that her role can no longer be that of a passive player, content to use her powers in secret and live a quiet life.
“The world changes, the wheel spines, and so we must change as well” – Onyx and Ivory, Mindee Arnett, p. 496
I also liked how Arnett built the world as the reader progressed through the book – it never felt quite like an info dump, and nothing was ever explained so explicitly that it felt bland, yet the reader never feels lost because the world grows in step with the plot. For example, Kate’s magic was intriguing, and throughout the story, the reader learns alongside her what she is truly capable of, building the narrative of what a wilder is and can be. Furthermore, the magic system was consistent from beginning to end – wilders, drakes, and mages all made appearances early on, demonstrating their power (for good or destruction) in ways that showed the reader how the magic system worked. This allowed to reader to more easily understand the magic system as Kate delved more deeply into it, and it simply felt well fleshed out.
My only complaint about the magic system was the uror – the namesake of the book. Arnett simply explained the uror as a “mythical trial”, and throughout the book the reader sees that it is deeply steeped in tradition and religion, but never really gets a full explanation of its origin or power – just hints here and there.
“It’s the cruelest part of this life, I think, that we don’t get to choose the families and situations we’re born into” – Onyx and Ivory, Mindee Arnett
Finally, a brief comment on the quality of writing, including the plot, in this book. While I felt that (at times) the writing bordered on a tad bit childish for the YA audience it seems to have been intended for (that is, the older half of YA), the writing was, generally speaking, quite refined, mature, and polished. There was a nice balance of dialogue (with plenty of quips and banter), thoughtful introspection, and description, and Arnett’s style of writing certainly pulled me in quite quickly, and kept me hooked from beginning to end.
This definitely supported a strong plot. The story gets started write away, launching the reader right into the action, then keeping them on the edge of their seats as Kate, Corwin, Signe, and Bonner jump from one problem to the next upheaval. While the middle of the plot did drag on a bit for my liking, it was never boring, and I liked that at the end everything came together nicely, making the bit I had thought a tad superfluous seem more important and relevant. And the ending – I loved it! So much action, personal upheaval, and an actual conclusion to the story told in Onyx and Ivory, while still flawlessly setting up the next book!
Overall, I think it is safe to say that Onyx and Ivory by Mindee Arnett left me with an overwhelmingly positive impression – and an impatience for the next installment in the series! Readers will love the characters, the magic, and the sweeping nature of this story, that will keep them hooked from beginning to end (4/5).