This review is based off an advance reading copy and thus an uncorrected text version of this title. The ACR was given to me in exchange for this review.
Publisher: Dial Books
Length: 394 pages
Release Date: Jun 19, 2012
Genre: Young Adult
It is the world of Tril. In this world exists the Unskilled (normal people) and the Skilled, their ‘worlds’ intentionally kept separate. Among the Skilled are Barons and Healers. Barons and Healers are soulbound to each other upon birth. They are born at the same time, and take their first breath at the same time.
A war has been raging in Tril, brought on by King Darrek. Twice a brutal battle took place in Wood’s Cross, each of these battles twenty years apart. Barons lost their soulbound Healers, the pain of this breaking leaving emotional scars on the Barons. Some Barons are re-bound to a new Healer. Two problems exist though: One, bound Healers can’t heal as well as their soulbound counterparts. Two, several Healers have died, mostly in thanks to the monsters known as Graplars that are trained to hunt and kill Healers. Many Barons still go around without a Healer bound to them, soul-wise or not.
Kaya Oshiro was born a Healer. Her parents are both Barons. Unfortunately in the world of Tril it is forbidden for a Baron to have a relationship with another Baron. So Kaya has been raised near an Unskilled village, her family blending in with the population, hoping to escape notice from the Barron-run Zettai Council. Her world is thrown into chaos when her friend is killed from a Graplar and a letter from the Zettai Council arrives at her home. Kaya is welcomed to Shadow Academy, a school for both Barons and Healers. She has no choice but to accept and report at the school in three days, or the Council will ensure that she attends by punishing or perhaps killing her parents for their forbidden relationship.
Upon arriving at the school Kaya discovers a mentality from both the Skilled’s overall Protocol and attitudes of some people at the school that is dismissive towards Healers. Healers are there to stand by if their Baron needs their healing assistance and not much more. And Healers are forbidden to learn how to fight. But Kaya wants to be able to defend herself and her loved ones against Graplar attacks. Kaya has no choice but to learn how to fight in secret. The only choices are Trayton, the Baron she is bound to (Kaya’s soulbound Baron has unfortunately died.), or Darius, the Unskilled man who teaches the Barons how to fight at Shadow Academy.
Meanwhile somehow Graplars are getting into Shadow Academy, a school surrounded by a wall and gates protected by Barons. Kaya gets attacked by a Graplar late one night, and one of her friends gets attacked another night. While Barons look for weaknesses on the outside of the wall, Kaya decides to search the inside for a weakness. She tries to figure out how the Graplars are getting inside before someone inside the school grounds gets killed.
I enjoyed reading this book. It was easy to get into and just as easy to get hooked into it. It was one of those books that I had a hard time of putting down. I kept looking forward to breaks at work or free time at home to delve into the world to Tril again. And it ends with one heck of a scene that left me wondering what will happen next. (I must read book two.)
I liked the soulbound concept between Barons and Healers, it was the reason this book caught my eye. Since there is a war going on, most of what the reader observes about this link is Barons who have lost their soulbound Healers and still years later suffer anguish over it. Even one of the main characters, a Baron named Trayton, lost his soulbound healer. Trayton fell into a depression over her loss. His family is hoping that binding Trayton to a new Healer (Kaya) will help him recover. Trayton does develop feelings for Kaya, however I wonder if Trayton truly loves Kaya, or is he actually still going through the motions and unconsciously fools himself into believing he’s in love.
I had a few minor issues with the book. I wish there wasn’t such an oppressive attitude towards Healers. If a war is killing Healers, especially a large amount in the vicinity of the school, you’d think at least the people at Shadow Academy would appreciate them more. Why does this mentality against Healers exist? Especially since Barons seem to go through a lot of mental anguish when their soulbound Healer dies. While I understand this is written here to give something for Kaya to protest against, I feel the reasons behind why aren’t explained beyond outright discrimination. I guess this just bugged me a bit, but I still loved the story regardless. I’m hoping as I progress through future books that this all gets explained more.
Another issue I had was a couple of times in the beginning of the book that it dipped into what I’ll call modern day teenage speak. For example using the phrase, “which I totally was.” It yanked me out of the immersion of the story and perhaps could have been adjusted. Another even more minor was when Kaya thought, “Um, duh” in response to a character saying the obvious. That wasn’t so bad, but still it felt a tad out of place. Those are the only times I recall being a bit jarred out of the story. The rest of it flowed nicely and I still have many mental images in my mind still floating around. I can quickly recall images of Kaya’s and Trayton’s rooms, the dining area, and Kaya taking care of the roses.
One last minor complaint is that I wish this book had some maps. A map of the area where Kaya grew up, of Shadow Academy, and of the world itself, would have been nice. Perhaps they’ll be in the next book, I hope?
To sum up despite my issues mentioned above, I would very much enjoy re-reading this book and walking through the world of Tril again. There’s some romance in it, but it isn’t the overall theme. There is a bit of a love triangle going on, however it’s not the sort that Kaya obviously has a crush over two guys. If anything it seems like Kaya is trying to sort out her feelings over just one of them. The other guy is involved in part of her life but not in a romantic way. Kaya thinks the other guy is good looking, but they verbally clash when they’re together.
It will be interesting to see if Trayton’s viewpoint on Protocol evolves and expands over the series. I wouldn’t want him to be too by the book as the story progresses, especially with people around him going counter to it.
I hope the next book expands into the details of the war. I would like more information about King Darrek and his army. I also hope more details about the world, about the reasons behind the rules of Protocol, and so on are flushed out. ★ ★ ★ ★