Sixteen-year-old Tashi has spent their life training as a inhabitor, a soldier who spies and kills using a bonded animal. When the capital falls after a brutal siege, Tashi flees to a remote monastery to hide. But the invading army turns the monastery into a hospital, and Tashi catches the eye of Xian, the regiment’s fearless young commander.
Tashi spies on Xian’s every move. In front of his men, Xian seems dangerous, even sadistic, but Tashi discovers a more vulnerable side of the enemy commander—a side that draws them to Xian.
When their spying unveils that everything they’ve been taught is a lie, Tashi faces an impossible choice: save their country or the boy they’re growing to love. Though Tashi grapples with their decision, their volatile bonded tiger doesn’t question her allegiances. Katala slaughters Xian’s soldiers, leading the enemy to hunt her. But an inhabitor’s bond to their animal is for life—if Katala dies, so will Tashi.
The Meta Details:
Length: 180 pages
Publication Date: August 22nd, 2017
Genre: Fantasy, LGBT
Content Level: Young Adult
Pearl Clutching Content: (see trigger warnings and featuring)
Trigger Warnings: child abuse, racism, misgendering, violence, torture, colonialism, and classism.
Featuring: Enby main character stuck in a believable love triangle who can take over a tiger’s body…
Recommended for: Everyone (as long as it won’t trigger you)
Rating: zomfg read it.
Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: fuck. fuuuuuck… I have so many feelings that I have to get them out now before I forget any little bit. Any little fact that I want to mention.
Before any little bit of silver gets lost…
(You’ll understand when you read it. Just know that was clever as fuck…)
Let me start with Tashi, the genderfluid main character. They just were genderfluid. And aside from a few moments of misgendering and the two potential love interests correcting it, there was never a big deal made out of it. They just were genderfluid. Not as a teachable moment, not as a statement. Just because they were.
So glorious. I cried a little bit as I read off and on over it.
Next, I want to talk about the impossible situation everyone found themselves in. Aside from the top people, the ones in power, the ones we only see for a second if we see at all, no one has any choice. They have to do what they feel is best for their people and best for their families. Julia Ember handles this so well. Showing both sides of being capable of monstrous actions while still being human. It’s an uncomfortable look at war, and the actions taken by the victors and the losers.
Which leads to my praise of the love triangle. The bone deep and comfortable yet impossible love Tashi feels for Pharo was handled so well that by the time the narrative gets around to saying it, you already know. You roll your eyes at how obvious it is.
With Xian, their emotions are more conflicted. They hate them forever for being an enemy but appreciate the kindness in a world where they too frequently find none. They love Pharo in an impossible way, but lust after Xian. It’s a complicated tangle that they feel for Pharo, but it’s handled perfectly.
And finally, the pacing. it’s a quick read, but with a gentle pace, the story moving along evenly so you don’t even realize you’ve reached one emotional peak until you’re at the next and the next and finally you’re reading the last sentence of the book. You’re left gasping as you realize you’re in the acknowledgments and not the story and how is that possible? How? But that last sentence, and now I have to wait for the next book? I can’t wait for the next book! I need to know what happened with that last sentence right right now now.
And, okay, you’ve realized this is less “you” and more “me,” but that’s fine. I’m chill with you all knowing how desperate I am for the next book. When it comes to novel desperation, I have no shame, especially if it encourages you to pick up a book as wonderful as this one was.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.