Iraya Adair has spent her life in a cell. Heir of an overthrown and magically-gifted dynasty, she was exiled from her home on the island nation of Aiyca when she was just a child. But every day brings her closer to freedom – and vengeance.
Jazmyne Cariot grew up dressed in gold, with stolen magic at her fingertips. Daughter of the self-crowned doyenne, her existence is a threat to her mother’s rule. But unlike her sister, Jazmyne has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power.
Sworn enemies, the two witches enter a deadly alliance to take down the woman who threatens both their worlds.
But revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain – except the lengths Iraya and Jazmyne will go to win this game.Two witches. One motive. And a very untrustworthy alliance.
*This ARC was sent to me by HotKeys Books and this post contains affiliate links, please read our disclaimer policy for more information!*
This is what 14 year old me CRAVED. This is what I wanted. I grew up reading fantasy novels and loved them, but never would I ever imagined a fantasy novel inspired by my beloved island of Jamaica.
The cultural references…the world building.
Gosh, I can’t put into words how it made me feel. It just made me feel so so SEEN.
Also, the fact this cover is in JAMAICAN Colours is the icing on the cake 🇯🇲🇯🇲
Filled with themes of revenge, loss, love, magic and so much more, Ciannon Smart wrote a truly exceptional novel about two witches desperate for power and revenge within a matriarchal society. The unforgiving nature of betrayal and the lingering prominence of grief and loss were felt in the background on every page. A true reflection of great writing.
You know when you can tell an author has poured their entire heart and soul into a book? From the writing down to the character’s development throughout, you can see on every page there’s a small imprint of which the author has slaved over making this story the best it could ever be?
I could literally feel it.
The magic system was so carefully plotted and thought out. However, I’ll be honest, this was the only thing I struggled with! As I received an ARC, I’m wasn’t sure if the final copies of the book had a glossary/index of the magic system. My memory is terrible and it took me a while to remember the differences between Alumbrar and Obeah – whilst remembering all the different kingdoms and magic references. Once, I did though, I literally flew through this book.
I think I should address the concerns of writing and confusing magic systems that some people have asked me about. I personally felt like the book read more like the upper-end of YA similar to that of Legendborn by Tracy Deonn and A Song of Wraith and Ruins by Roseanne A Brown. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s ‘wordy’ as some of you have suggested. It’s very descriptive but, then again, when you’re trying to build a world from scratch, it must be incredibly difficult to do so and make sure you’re detailing exactly what’s in your head. As I mentioned above, the magic system can be a tad confusing but I’ve just received a finished copy and there’s a carefully crafted glossary of the magical terms.
In my Christian Jamaican family, the most I ever heard about Obeah was that I shouldn’t mention it. And, the most I knew about it was that it was to do with spiritual practices. So, it was really interesting how Ciannon explored this attitude towards Obeah through the Alumbrar. The class system. The divide. It angered me until I realised this was layered in Black history, class attitudes in Jamaica and even the general attitude towards Obeah on the island now.
“Order divides them…Revenge unites them…”
The double-crossing. the revenge. The dichotomy between heroes and villains. Morally grey characters? There was not a single thing I would have guessed about this book. Everyone was double-crossing everyone! Not a single person was actually genuine and it left you on the edge of your seat. Just when I thought I had a character figured out – something else would happen that would reveal that I actually had no idea. The reader’s sense of morality would change depending on who’s narrative we would be reading. A skill that is quite hard to do as a writer. The gap between heroes and villains suddenly shrunk considerably as both Iraya and Jazmyne tiptoed that fine line.
“Trust no witch…”
Because of this, I struggled to pick a character that I absolutely loved. Normally, I have a character that I secretly root for and that I want to win so badly. But between Iraya and Jazmyne, I wanted them both to get what they wanted. I would have even liked them to rule together – even if they made it very clear from the start that it would be impossible.
“Unlike storms, trouble doesn’t give signs like rain, so we must always be ready for it.”
Even the romance worked for me? I phrased this as a question because I wasn’t expecting it to. But, this was woven in really well for both characters. I preferred Iraya and her love interest’s progression – but I think that’s because I really liked his character and I’m so excited to hear more of his backstory in the next book.
Am I incredibly biased? Hell yes. The food references from ackee and saltfish, cornmeal porridge and so much more were everything. Mentions of parishes – St Catherines, St Anns? The Blue Mountains? The reference to Jamaica’s Coat of Arms – “Out of Many, We Are One People…”? My entire heart was made up. And whilst you can’t deny that this has Jamaica at the heart, Ciannon birthed a new story. A story that tells of resistance and revenge. The two that go hand In hand.
This novel made me think of the Maroons – slaves that fled to the Blue Mountains during slavery. As it’s part of my own history, being that my Great-Grandad was a maroon, the maroon community has always been something that’s interested me. I’m convinced that The Jade Guild are influenced by them and I’m excited to, hopefully, read more about them in the next book. The theme of resistance is one that is very familiar with Jamaica and the Caribbean as a whole. Neither Iraya nor Jazmyne was going to back down from what they wanted to achieve. In fact, every single character spoke to this theme of resistance in many different ways. Whether it was resisting arrest or the laws in place – they all conveyed their strength.
“Unity is the sweetest resistance in an atmosphere created to foster discord…”
There’s no doubt that I’m eagerly awaiting the second book. I really did want to go into this review unbiased but I couldn’t help it.
This novel speaks to Jamaican history in depth from the culture to the theme of resistance. There’s no shadow of a doubt that the impact this will have will be huge.
Also, I’m ready for this to be a film/tv show? Please.