For the first time, an Empress Redemptor sits on Aritsar’s throne. To appease the sinister spirits of the dead, Tarisai must now anoint a council of her own, coming into her full power as a Raybearer. She must then descend into the Underworld, a sacrifice to end all future atrocities.
Tarisai is determined to survive. Or at least, that’s what she tells her increasingly distant circle of friends. Months into her shaky reign as empress, child spirits haunt her, demanding that she pay for past sins of the empire.
With the lives of her loved ones on the line, assassination attempts from unknown quarters, and a handsome new stranger she can’t quite trust . . . Tarisai fears the pressure may consume her. But in this finale to the Raybearer duology, Tarisai must learn whether to die for justice . . . or to live for it.
Despite having the advance copy, I’m late by a week in writing this review but I just couldn’t read this book when I wasn’t in the mood, because one of my most anticipated sequels of the years deserved my full attention. And listening to this audiobook gave me all the joy I needed.
Raybearer was a book that was never on my radar until I received the audiobook as part of a promotion and I decided to give it a try – not realizing that it would enchant me completely, becoming one of my top 3 favorites reads of 2020. Redemptor is not much different, plunging us into a tense situation right from the first page and letting us feel a lot of things through the course of the story. The author is great at exploring issues of oppression, poverty, and rebellion, as well as themes of self worth, guilt, grief and despair – all through the eyes of Tarisai. The narration of Joniece Abbott-Pratt heightens the emotions such that we feel what Tar is going through in our heart, and just like Raybearer, the audiobook definitely makes this story even better. The plot took unexpected turns at places but was also predictable at times, but the pacing was just right and I never felt bored. I did go into this book expecting it to be five stars and I can’t say exactly that I’m disappointed to reduce a half star, but the ending kinda felt a bit anticlimactic and rushed than what I thought it would be – it’s satisfactory enough but just falls a little short.
Tar is an amazing protagonist just like in the first book and it’s so fascinating to see her growth. She may be a young and unexpected Empress who was not trained from childhood for this role, but accepts the responsibility with all dedication. Not having the same privileged background and upbringing as Dayo and the other nobles, she is unable to close her eyes and turn away from the status quo of centuries of oppression by the elite families on the common people, where the poorest experience all kinds of tortures and indignities while the nobles hoard their coffers. When everyone around her chides her for trying to do too much and advises her to go slowly and incrementally, she is ready to make sweeping changes because it may be difficult but it’s also the right thing to do. In a bit of a parallel to our real world, the author shows us how some people are always ready to overlook the injustices of the past because they haven’t committed them in the present, despite the consequences of said past still having an effect; and how there are always people like Tar and Zuri who can’t stomach the atrocities, either the past or present, and just dedicate their lives to make the world better.
Zuri was probably the most fascinating new addition to this world. His dialogues filled with riddles, his charming demeanor and a slightly wicked streak hide a much more empathetic person and I really enjoyed how the author revealed parts of him bit by bit. I probably would have liked to see him more but in this book which has two councils, each with twelve members, there were just too many characters. Even when the focus is on Zuri or the ruthless queen Min Ja, we only get to know them for a short while which I thought was unfortunate, coz these two were definitely very compelling characters. We also see Tar’s relationship with her first council, especially Dayo and Jeet and Kirah and I really enjoyed seeing them again. Dayo in particular was a delight and I absolutely adore his platonic relationship full of love with Tar, and how supportive he is of her choices and decisions. The romance did take a backseat this time but I didn’t feel anything missing because this story was about much more.
To conclude, this was a worthy finale to one of the best YA debuts of last year. With masterful storytelling, compelling group of ensemble characters and the most stunning audiobook narration, the author creates a memorable world and explores a very important question – what is the duty of a ruler? This duology has strong heroine, a extremely compassionate emperor, a found family which shows us all the forms that love can take, an empire full of different kingdoms with their own traditions and cultures, and a story that keeps you hooked throughout – don’t give this a miss.