Onyx & Ivory – Mindee Arnett – Balzer+Bray – Published 15 May 2018




They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king years ago. Now Kate lives as an outcast, clinging to the fringes of society as a member of the Relay, the imperial courier service. Only those most skilled in riding and bow hunting ride for the Relay; and only the fastest survive, for when dark falls, the nightdrakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: she is a wilder, born with magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals. But it’s this magic that she needs to keep hidden, as being a wilder is forbidden, punishable by death or exile. And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by nightdrakes in broad daylight—the only survivor her childhood friend, her first love, the boy she swore to forget, the boy who broke her heart.

The high king’s second son, Corwin Tormane, never asked to lead. Even as he waits for the uror—the once-in-a-generation ritual to decide which of the king’s children will succeed him—he knows it’s always been his brother who will assume the throne. And that’s fine by him. He’d rather spend his days away from the palace, away from the sight of his father, broken with sickness from the attempt on his life. But the peacekeeping tour Corwin is on has given him too much time to reflect upon the night he saved his father’s life—the night he condemned the would-be killer to death and lost the girl he loved. Which is why he takes it on himself to investigate rumors of unrest in one of the remote city-states, only for his caravan to be attacked—and for him to be saved by Kate.

With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin have to put the past behind them. The threat of drakes who attack in the daylight is only the beginning of a darker menace stirring in the kingdom—one whose origins have dire implications for Kate’s father’s attack upon the king and will thrust them into the middle of a brewing civil war in the kingdom of Rime.

My thoughts

Onyx & Ivory is an epic YA fantasy, with equal shares magic, intrigue, power, desperation, uprisings, politics, friendship, and romance.

Three years ago, Kate Brighton’s father attempted to assassinate the High King. Now, Kate is branded as Traitor Kate and works as a Relay Rider, risking her life as she rides between cities. If she doesn’t make it behind protected barrier walls before nightfall she will be attacked and killed by the monstrous Nightdrakes. But Kate hides another deadly secret – she is a Wilder, magic that if discovered will mean she will be put to death. When Prince Corwin appears in Kate’s new hometown it resurrects memories of their shared childhood. Then a horrible Nightdrake attack leaves Corwin’s travelling company killed and himself injured, and as Kate comes to his rescue, their future becomes intwined once again as they face a growing uprising, spreading Nightdrake attacks, and an unsettled political climate.

Onyx & Ivory contains a complex magical world. Magical creatures, two orders of magical abilities -one sanctioned and the other illegal- and a series of countries with a history of war and a current tenuous peace. Readers are plunged straight into Kate’s world as a Relay Rider. As the chapters unfold, the reader slowly pieces together the story of Kate’s past and her secrets, as well as the complexity of the countries that make up the Onyx & Ivory world and the various magical rules, abilities, and structures that separates the Mages from the Wilders. I hope the sequel will shed more light on the complex relationships and differences between the countries that is only hinted at in this first book. Kate’s abilities as a Wilder are only starting to be tested and there is so much room for the sequel to explore this.

At first a little confusing, as the plot unfolded the story became increasingly exciting and I felt myself begin to engage with the characters and their quest. Onyx & Ivory reminded me strongly of Ruined by Amy Tintera, with which it shares a very similar plot line, as well as having many crossovers with other fantasy novels. Fortunately, Onyx & Ivory has enough intrigue and originality within the structure of its magic system to prevent it from seeming like an exact copy. The last quarter also really ramps up the action and sets the scene for an exciting sequel.

Mindee Arnett pieces together a plethora of elements in Onyx & Ivory, from an obvious love of horses (though horse lovers should be warned of a few traumatic first scenes) and a romantic reunion between Kate and Corwin with plenty of lingering tension, to a strong camaraderie between friends and desperate fight for equality between Mages and Wilders. And with a tense conclusion, Onyx & Ivory perfectly sets the scene for an epic showdown in the second book in this planned duology.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction.

Genre: Fantasy.

Themes: Magic, rebellion, politics, royal courts, romance, friendship, family, horses, magic powers.

Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.

Advisory: Sexual references, references to sexual relationships, brothels and prostitution. Fantasy violence, death, injury and injury and death to animals.

Published:  15 May 2018 by Balzer+Bray.

Format: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook. 512 pages.

ISBN: 9780062652669

Find it on Goodreads