What if your greatest enemy was yourself?
Zara is a mage, one of the elite in a world where magic is power, and the non-magic majority live as slaves. When her slave child best friend is killed for the crime of literacy, Zara seeks revenge by spying for the rebel Knowledge Seekers. She finds her bravery and magical skill tested to the limit when a young Maker, Aidan, is taken hostage in a bid for supposed peace. Surprised by first love, she promises to help him. But before Zara can keep her promise, her secret is discovered. Hunted by her own, she seeks refuge with the Knowledge Seekers. But when you can kill with a thought, can you ever be trusted? Pain, romance, defiance and revenge combine in this powerfully written – and breathtakingly envisioned – YA fantasy.
I’m not backward about mentioning the fact that Garth Nix is my favourite author, and his Old Kingdom trilogy is one of my favourite trilogies, if not the actual favourite, basically ever. So Tribute, which is published by the same company that currently publishes Nix’s books (most recently Clariel) was probably going to be a winner for me. I went in with high expectations, and they were met at every turn.
I really, really liked Tribute. So much so that I’ve ordered Outcaste on Amazon, and it should arrive on Thursday. I’m very excited about it.
Tribute was excellent. It tells the story of Zara, a talented young mage, daughter of the Archmage, and a spy against her own kind. I love YA fantasy, and this is a really good example of it. It’s a bit like Trudi Canavan mixed with Garth Nix, which was a guaranteed winner for me.
The worldbuilding in this was excellent – it reminded me a lot of the Old Kingdom trilogy, in that there was a magical kingdom separated from a non-magical one by a wall. The system was explained quickly, with its intricacies and nuances revealed over the course of the book, rather than just slamming the reader with an explanation at the beginning. Although there was a glossary at the back, I didn’t use it, preferring to just figure things out as I went along, and I didn’t struggle too much with anything – the author did an excellent job of revealing things at just the right time.
The characters in this book were diverse and interesting, not always likable, but always engaging. I particularly liked Twiss, the young Thief who has a lot of dealings with Zara. Her development was absolutely enthralling, and it was really enjoyable to watch her grow throughout the course of the book.
While there is a love story in this book, and maybe it borders on insta-love, it didn’t grate on me at all, probably because everything around the rest of the book is so strong, and this is just carried along on a tidal wave of excellence.
It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what it was about this book I really liked. I think it’s something of a perfect storm of female-driven YA with a strong main character in an interesting and original fantasy world, with great characters and really believable development. There was very little I didn’t like about this book. Although part of a duology, and in fact the follow-up, Outcaste, is described as the second part of the novel, I really felt like it ended on a satisfying note, with certainly loose threads to be tied up, but nothing like the lack of resolution which plagued me in books like The Jewel.
This book has very quickly risen to the top of my favourites list for 2015, and I’m only hoping that the sequel is just as good. For any fans of fantasy, YA or otherwise, I heartily recommend.