I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Random House on June 6, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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Fifteen-year-old Raim lives in a world where you tie a knot for every promise that you make. Break that promise and you are scarred for life, and cast out into the desert.
Raim has worn a simple knot around his wrist for as long as he can remember. No one knows where it came from, and which promise of his it symbolises, but he barely thinks about it at all—not since becoming the most promising young fighter ever to train for the elite Yun guard. But on the most important day of his life, when he binds his life to his best friend (and future king) Khareh, the string bursts into flames and sears a dark mark into his skin.
Scarred now as an oath-breaker, Raim has two options: run, or be killed.
I loved this book. I’m not gonna lie, I know that there are boring parts, and there are parts where you spend your time wondering when it will end, but the parts where it picks up and is so full of action? Those parts more than make up for it. I loved this book so much that after I finished it at some ridiculous hour (probably 4 a.m.) I was messaging my sister and demanding she get this book and read it as soon as possible.
The book starts with, let’s be honest, some kind of terrible characters. They’re boring, and flat, and pretty much walking clichés (which in itself is a cliché, I know). Raim is the best friend to the chief’s son, and he plans on being a Yun warrior and protector of the Khan (something like chief of all the tribes) when he gets older. Khareh, the future Khan, on the other hand, is as spoiled as you might expect. (I mentioned the cliché part, right?) If they had remained like this, unchanging and static, then this book wouldn’t have been anything close to what it actually was. Instead, these characters change as they grow up and reality strikes.
But where the book starts with boring characters, it doesn’t fall flat with this original world. The world is exceptionally detailed and rich with history and a unique culture with a fantastical twist. Right away we’re introduced to the magic of oaths, a knot you tie and wear as a bracelet. If you break that oath the knot catches fire and brands you an oathbreaker. But more than that, a shadow begins to follow them, the ghostly haunt of whomever they broke the oath with, making it impossible to hide and impossible to simply forget what wrongs they have committed. All oathbreakers are banished to the desert where if they are lucky they will find the Alushan, and thus their way to salvation.
When Raim accidentally breaks an oath he never made he is branded an outcast and banished. He leaves, not because he has been banished, but because he seeks an answer to what oath he broke, and a way to prove that he is not at fault. Along the way he meets new friends, learns more about his shadow that haunts him, and learns some startling truths about Khareh, the boy he thought was his friend. While Raim struggles to find his own answers, Khareh is learning how to be a mage and what terrible lines he has to cross in order to do so, making reconciliation between the two impossible.
Not all questions are answered in this book. And by the end we’re left with even more questions. However, there is a sequeal to this book and I cannot wait for the chance to read that one too.