They call her Traitor Kate because of her father’s actions, and she now lives as an outcast, working for the imperial courier service. It’s a dangerous job as the nightdrakes attack when dark falls, and especially with the secret Kate is keeping. She’s a wilder, able to perform magic to influence animal minds. But this is forbidden & punishable by death or exile.
When Corwin Tormane, the high king’s second son, has his caravan attacked by these mysterious dragons that attack in the day, his life once again collides with his childhood sweetheart, Kate’s. Corwin isn’t ready for what his life will bring, both with Kate and the uror ritual that will determine the succession line.
Both Kate and Corwin will embark on a dangerous journey filled with mysterious drakes, and this is only the start of a menace within the kingdom.
I really wanted to love Onyx & Ivory, and on some levels I did.
I think a big part of this lies in how this just isn’t really my style. I’ve been trying to branch out to more traditional fantasy, but this part of the genre is not really for me.
I have friends who love love love these types of fantasy. You guys will love love love Onyx & Ivory too.
It just wasn’t mindblowing or super special or anything extraordinarily moving for me.
I still enjoyed a lot of things about it–I found the magic system to be interesting and I loved the contrast between the magists and the wilders. This was definitely one of my favorite parts of this novel because I thought the discrimination the wilders experienced was portrayed well and the contrast between the two groups had a very nuanced undertone.
Despite this, I did wish there was more of a focus on the inherent discriminations and disparities within the society Arnett built. I think there was a lot more to talk about with the magist and wilder contrast and I think this book is only the start of that discussion. Similarly, the women aren’t exactly valued in this novel, and I was really hoping Kate would overthrow the patriarchy because all sorts of things happen such as:
- being frowned upon for wearing a moonbelt (which is a magical form of a contraceptive for women)
- being discriminated inside her job (i.e. being given the bad jobs or being put on hold or pushed around)
- not really being able to marry who she wants (& queens don’t have a lot of power, I’m guessing)
- being frowned upon for not wearing an overskirt and just wearing pants
There’s a lot in this society that doesn’t exactly elevate women’s status. And I feel like this was really blatant to me but never really addressed in the novel, which was disappointing. Yes, the novel did show that women can be fierce, but it’s not the women that are the problem–it’s the whole system.
I think this is one of the biggest reasons why this fantasy type just isn’t really my style. Because it’s that medieval fantasy where women aren’t given the natural power that they truly possess from birth.
Kate was still an awesome character and I think she has a lot of awesome qualities and is a character that is relatable. Corwin came off as a little jock-y to me, but I love how Arnett highlighted his insecurities.
But Kate and Corwin together was just kind of “meh” for me. I think part of this was because their tension was so much rooted in the past because they have this past from a couple years ago where they really liked each other, and because of this, I felt like their relationship wasn’t as developed as I wanted it to be.
Still, I think this novel was very well executed, even if the overall plot was a tad predictable (there were still a few parts where I was definitely surprised by the turns it took & did not guess that at all). The writing is engaging and the story is enough to immerse your self in this land, Rime, where magic exists and some people with magic are discriminated against.
The only other thing that I wasn’t too fond of was the lack of diversity. I feel like race was largely ignored in this novel, but when you write a medieval-style fantasy, it’s kind of implied that everyone is white because medieval is white. If it was an Asian setting, then you’d assume most of the characters are Asian. And if it was an African setting, then you’d assume most of the characters are African.
So because of the medieval structure of the novel, it did feel like it was very heavily implied that everyone is white, or at the very least, the story doesn’t really give any indication that the characters are non-white. Similarly, I don’t believe I saw any LGBTQ+ rep in this, which was also a little sad.
I think this is one of the better novels in the traditional white-medieval style fantasy novels, but I just feel like this isn’t something that’s really my style. I think the whole novel is executed very well and will be a really great read for readers who love these types of books or enjoyed novels like The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner.
(Also, I feel like both onyx and ivory have barely anything to do with this story and it’s a little confusing where the title came from. The cover is so gorgeous though!)
Thank you so much to Edelweiss, Harper Collins/Balzer + Bray, and Mindee Arnett for providing me with both a digital review copy AND an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
You can find Onyx & Ivory in any major retailer on Tuesday (May 15th!) or you can preorder now & be entered to win a set of character cards & get to read an exclusive short story! You can find more about the preorder incentives here.