Chronicling the rise of the Keepers, this is the stunning prequel to Andrea Cremer's internationally bestselling Nightshade trilogy!
Sixteen-year-old Ember Morrow is promised to a group called Conatus after one of their healers saves her mother's life. Once she arrives, Ember finds joy in wielding swords, learning magic, and fighting the encroaching darkness loose in the world. She also finds herself falling in love with her mentor, the dashing, brooding, and powerful Barrow Hess. When the knights realize Eira, one of their leaders, is dabbling in dark magic, Ember and Barrow must choose whether to follow Eira into the nether realm or to pledge their lives to destroying her and her kind.
This is going to be a good series; I think I like this one even more than the Nightshade series, maybe. Ember longs to be from under her father's watchful eye and hopes to have a life of her own choosing. She has no desire to be a wife to some rich aristocrat just to carry on the family name and wealth. It just so happens that when her mother was giving birth to her, things weren't going so well and they both almost died. Conatus agrees to save her in exchange for the daughter she bears, Ember. On the day she is supposed to leave her father tries everything to put a dent in her departure but no matter how hard he tries Ember is destined and determined to leave. Barrow, a member of the Guard at Conatus sent to retrieve her, proves to be a force that won't budge to the whims of her father via a very visually gruesome fight scene. Once Ember arrives she must go through at test to prove that she is on the right path, and this will truly decide her place in Conatus. However, her father is still persistent about her not being there, goodness this man is stubborn!
The romance between Ember and Barrow is just right not too much, too soon but just enough heat to make it swoon-worthy. Alistair, her best friend from home is also a member of the Guard and he longs to be with Ember. The sparks fly when he sees that she is interested in Barrow. Ember she is strong, stubborn and fierce. She is a natural fighter with spirit and not one of those wimpy female leads but she is proactive. Alistair is a spineless weasel. Barrow is a fantastic fighter with a subtle strength to him. I like that he is more level minded and careful with Ember whereas Alistair is more aggressive, sneaky and single-minded. Though this book is not entirely about the romance but about the darkness that is infiltrating itself into the very hearts of the Guard own warriors.
The writing is good and the plot is steadily paced. The narrative seems to follow the perspectives of Ember and Eira. Ember is trying to show that she is capable of being a valuable member at Conatus and Eira is not entirely satisfied with her position in the Circle, she longs for something more. It is interesting to see what lead to the events in Nightshade. Mostly, what works for me is the characters mainly Ember and Barrow, the scenes with them are my favorites. I recommend this to the readers of fantasy fiction and those that also like the Nightshade series.
*Received this book from Around the World Arc Tours*