Markswoman

Markswoman

Book - 2018
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"An order of magical-knife wielding female assassins brings both peace and chaos to their post-apocalyptic world in this bewitching blend of science fiction and epic fantasy--the first entry in a debut duology that displays the inventiveness of the works of Sarah Beth Durst, Marie Lu, and S. J. Kincaid. Kyra is the youngest Markswoman in the Order of Kali, a highly trained sisterhood of elite warriors armed with telepathic blades. Guided by a strict code of conduct, Kyra and the other Orders are sworn to protect the people of Asiana. But to be a Markswoman, an acolyte must repudiate her former life completely. Kyra has pledged to do so, yet she secretly harbors a fierce desire to avenge her dead family. When Kyra's beloved mentor dies in mysterious circumstances, and Tamsyn, the powerful, dangerous Mistress of Mental Arts, assumes control of the Order, Kyra is forced on the run. Using one of the strange Transport Hubs that are remnants of Asiana's long-lost past, she finds herself in the unforgiving wilderness of desert that is home to the Order of Khur, the only Order composed of men. Among them is Rustan, a young, disillusioned Marksman whom she soon befriends. Kyra is certain that Tamsyn committed murder in a twisted bid for power, but she has no proof. And if she fails to find it, fails in her quest to keep her beloved Order from following Tamsyn down a dark path, it could spell the beginning of the end for Kyra--and for Asiana. But what she doesn't realize is that the line between justice and vengeance is razor thin. thin as the blade of a knife"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York, NY : Harper Voyager, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2018]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780062564542
Branch Call Number: SciFic Mehrotra
Characteristics: vi, 368 pages ; 21 cm

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I had high hopes for this debut novel, perhaps a bit unfairly, I wanted this book to be the girl-power fantasy of my dreams. Rati Mehrotra's Markswoman has the makings of a great fantasy novel. However, ultimately the flat characters and the lackluster romance prevented me from absolutely loving this book.

I appreciated that there were several strong female characters in Markswoman. As the description suggest the Markswomen in the novel are seen as extremely powerful and the ultimate deciders of who lives or dies; they're functionally executioners, supposedly with the law on their side. The main villain Tamsyn was truly a villain worth hating though we never learn why she's evil. Rather Tamsyn seems like your standard villain hell-bent on power and ambition *insert evil laugh here, while said villain perhaps stroking a hairless cat* Moreover, Kyra, our protagonist, has little character growth and is a hot-head adolescent girl for most of book. Don't get me wrong, I do love these kinds of characters and they can be done well; it just wasn't successfully executed here. I could never truly empathize or root for her during most of the novel. Lastly, I think my biggest gripe with the characterizations is Rustan and later the supposed attraction between Rustan and Kyra. Rustan is a classic brooding hero. Rustan is a Marksman is disillusioned with his life as a Marksman after elders from a nearby clan manipulated him and the elder Marksmen. Again, I can appreciate a brooding handsome young man but it's contrived and I'm not sure it adds much to the story. On top of this Kyra and Rustan supposedly develop an attraction to one another via their fight training. On one had I saw this plot device a mile off, while on the other hand I'm at a loss to see where the attraction develops. The two share fighting practice and exchange a few gruff words but that's about it. In my opinion, this romantic angle really hindered the plot and felt unnecessary.

Despite the lack of character development and the not-sure-why-this-is-in-here science fiction elements I enjoyed the world building in this book; it's set in a post-apocalyptic Asian setting with a return to clans and the Markswomen enforce justice with blades because guns have been forbidden. Thus, a minor element the book tells us that guns have been imbued with almost sentient evil. Though again we don't really learn about how this happened. I like the references to the goddess Kali, meditative breathing, and the switch to female law enforcement (I'm not sure you can call the society matriarchal since we don't see much of society outside of the assassin orders). While the middle section of the book lost some traction, the ending intrigued me enough to want to read the next book - this is mean to be a duology.

Ultimately, Markswoman falls into a middle ground. It's not awful, despite my complaining about the characterizations, I still enjoyed a lot of elements of this book. However, I cannot give it a glowing review. If you're interested in a fantasy book written by a woman of color I say give it a try!

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