Book Review: RAYBEARER by Jordan Ifueko

Title in white on black with border of red, green, and yellow leaves
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: yes - first book in duology


Book cover for RAYBEARER: title in white above a face made from lions and leaves

Nothing is more important than loyalty. But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of Elven. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere.

But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


RAYBEARER is one of the 2020 debuts that got a little tangled up in the Covid-19 pandemic. I wasn’t following this book closely, but at least one of the US and UK publication dates got moved and there was so much going on that the publicity got a little swallowed. For myself, my copy ended up sitting on a shelf in a city I could not access for 8 months.

This is a YA that spends the first act following years of Tarisai’s life. Huge chunks are skipped, but we see interactions from the age of 7 until about 14, and then it jumps to some point in late teen years. It’s completely a personal thing, but I’m not a big fan of books that follow children from younger-than-MG age up to the top of YA (or beyond in adult), particularly with time jumps. I find it often drags the pacing down and muddles the tone, as you either start off with a more childish voice, that doesn’t fit the story, and so matures throughout, or the voice is the same and the child doesn’t feel like a child at the start.

With RAYBEARER, I found it slow to get into at first, because of this large range of ages. The pacing felt a bit scattered with all the jumps, and the initial voice a bit too young for YA, but not young enough to truly feel like the age of the Tarisai at that time. However, once we were deep into part 2, and the story had settled down to older teen Tarisai, I found myself much more engaged.

Once Tarisai has aged, there is a sense of doom hanging over her, but I liked that the book didn’t linger on it, tugging it out until the end for the finale. Instead, the midpoint happened, playing against my expectations in the best way possible. (Probably a spoiler in there, sorry.)

Then she was off on a quest for knowledge, uncovering the truth behind the various secrets and injustices. It let the book be about justice and history and forced assimilation, rather than a girl torn between love and curses. Also, no forced love triangle and an ace-prince! Love it when we get representation like that! I’m hoping the sequel might tackle the pressures on the prince because of his position that conflict with his desires and feelings as an ace person, as that’s not something I’ve seen in YA before!

The second book in the duology, REDEMPTOR, comes out this year, and I am intrigued to see how Tarisai is going to fulfil the promise she made to gain peace in the finale.

Read my reviews of other books by Jordan Ifueko:

Raybearer (this series):


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