Raybearer was my favorite book of 2020 and I am screaming that I have been blessed with an eARC and it was everything I wanted! This review could easily be a series of screaming gifs. How do you review a book that touches you deeply? This satisfying conclusion to the Raybearer duology charts not only an epic adventure through the Underworld but also has the best character development. I genuinely worked on this review for days and I am sorry this review wound up being an essay on how much Tarisai’s emotional journey meant to me, but it is what it is.
TL;DR this duology is a must-read for fans of rich world-building, found families, and fighting to make the world a better place.
eARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion nor the contents of my review. Quotations are from an unfinished proof and subject to change upon final publication.
While this review is spoiler-free for Redemptor, there may be minor spoilers for the first book in the duology, Raybearer, in the review and book synopsis.
Publisher: Amulet Books | Release Date: August 17, 2021 | Pages: 336
Age Range: Young Adult | Genre: Fantasy | Format: eARC | Source: Publisher via Netgalley
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.
🏳️🌈 LGBT+ representation
⚔️ Fighting to improve the world
🧑🤝🧑 Found family
👑 The Chosen One
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ace rep, anxiety rep, potential depression rep, potential pansexual rep
alcohol consumption, drug use, child abuse & neglect recounted, blood depiction, murder
My Review of Redemptor
“Griots, the sacred storytellers of our empire, shaped the histories we believed with the beat of their drums. So I, too, would sing this story until I believed it.”
It felt so good to be back in Aritsar and Ifueko succinctly recaps the important developments from Raybearer in all of four paragraphs. Redemptor opens with consequences at the fore and sets the stage for the high stakes of this duology conclusion. Prepare to be on the edge of your seat, friends.
Where Raybearer centers on free will, Redemptor is focused on justice as Tarisai is tasked with undoing the wrongs of her ancestors and uniting the realm. Effortlessly crafted and intricately plotted, the writing is succinct and fast-paced while also drawing you in with its vivid descriptions.
“If the world didn’t care about injustice, then I would simply have to care enough for all of them.”
I see so much of myself in Tarisai. She cares so much about justice and making Aritsar a better place for everyone that she pushes herself beyond her limits to accomplish her goals. It’s almost painful to read at times as Tarisai becomes more and more isolated from those around her, but as someone who struggles with negative self-talk and intrusive thoughts I saw so much of myself on the page as she grapples with the spirits haunting her.
“Before the visions appear… I almost feel like I’m enough. Like I’m doing the best I can, and I deserve to be Raybearer. Deserve to be empress. Then the voices make me feel… useless. Like there’s so much evil, so much injustice, and I have to fix it.”
Tarisai’s worst fears and doubts are being affirmed everywhere she looks and no one else seems to be bothered. Tarisai’s sense of justice is full of the idealism of youth and juxtaposed with not only the centuries old laws but the complacency of those she is closest to. They don’t understand why she’s taking on the Abiku and putting herself at risk because they aren’t affected by the unjust laws.
“We support you as empress, Tar, but did you stop to think that some of us — well — love Aritsar just the way it is?”
More often than not, YA protagonists set on a revolution meet the status quo challenges from adults and easily build a movement for change. I love how Redemptor explores the challenges of growing into yourself and the tensions that may arise with the found family you covet. It’s painful to feel that you’re alone in your beliefs, and Tarisai not only has to deal with this but with the child spirits haunting her. It isolates Tarisai in a way that can darken rose-colored glasses and lead even the most pure hearts into complacency and despair. But Tarisai never gives up.
“What makes a world worth surviving in?”
I thoroughly enjoyed Redemptor, but not quite as much as Raybearer. I think this is in large part to the isolation Tarisai feels as she pulls away from everyone: it is a darker book. But that isn’t to say there aren’t bright spots and I cherish the moments she shares with her council members. The soft moments of doubt between Dayo and Tarisai discuss their individual desires to not have children and how the conversation subtly shifts when it’s Tarisai expressing she doesn’t want to be a mother. There’s the dual pressure of society’s expectations and her role as a Raybearer to produce heirs of the Kunleo line. But does she sacrifice herself for duty and how is that any different from what The Lady did?
“Your life should not be a means to an end. No human being should be reduced to a function.”
Overall, Redemptor is a satisfying conclusion to the duology and I am so sad there won’t be more adventures with these characters. The worldbuilding of the series is top-notch and vivid, and I enjoyed the exploration of the Underworld. Tarisai’s journey is about healing from controlling abuse, coming into her own, fighting her personal demons (& the spirits), and learning to ask for help from her loved ones. It’s a very important and fresh look at the difficulty of revolution that is largely absent in YA, and one everyone needs to read.
Everyone needs to read this YA fantasy duology. Raybearer is top-notch worldbuilding that activates all of your senses, sweeping you into the world of Aritsar with characters you can’t help but love. It’s a Chosen One story unlike one you’ve ever read, and I can’t wait to read whatever Ifueko writes next.
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No two readers experience a book in the same way; this was mine, but what about you?
💬 Have you read Redemptor (or Raybearer) yet? If so, what are your thoughts?
💬 Did I convince you to add this book to your TBR?
💬 What are your favorite non-European fantasy stories? What should I add to my TBR?
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Jenny @ Reading the End says
Yay, I can’t wait to read this! Raybearer impressed me hugely, particularly with its worldbuilding, and I’m so looking forward to seeing the world get filled out more and watch these amazing characters go through it. I didn’t realize this was a duology rather than a trilogy!
I honestly would be so thrilled it it were a trilogy because I just LOVE the world and characters so much, but it’s such a well plotted duology and is perfect as is. My preordered copy arrived the other day and it is so pretty in person. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did, Jenny!