Author: Natalie Mae
Narrator: Jesse Vilinsky
Audiobook Length: 14 hours 14 minutes
Zahru has long dreamed of leaving the kingdom of Orkena and having the kinds of adventures she’s only ever heard about in stories. But as a lowly Whisperer, her power to commune with animals means that her place is serving in the royal stables until the day her magic runs dry.
All that changes when the ailing ruler invokes the Crossing: a death-defying race across the desert, in which the first of his heirs to finish—and take the life of a human sacrifice at the journey’s end—will ascend to the throne and be granted unparalleled abilities.
With all of the kingdom abuzz, Zahru leaps at the chance to change her fate if just for a night by sneaking into the palace for a taste of the revelry. But the minor indiscretion turns into a deadly mistake when she gets caught up in a feud between the heirs and is forced to become the Crossing’s human sacrifice. Zahru is left with only one hope for survival: somehow figuring out how to overcome the most dangerous people in the world.
In a world of The Kinder Poison with different types of magic, the main character Zahru finds herself with the lowest rank, Whisperer, which speaks to animals. She feels like a nobody with the lack of power and wishes to feel like she matters. When the palace is open for an event, she takes the opportunity to sneak inside to enjoy the luxuries of palace life. While there she first meets one prince and then the other. Both Jet and Kasta are very different and both appeal to Zahru’s curiousity for the task that each prince, along with their sister, Sakira, must face. The three siblings will take place in a race to determine the next ruler. Each gets a second for their team and a healer. Together each team of three must not only reach the finish line, but also must kill the human sacrifice. After a series of events, Zahru finds herself chosen as the sacrifice and must figure out a way to survive.
For characters, I loved Zahru! She is witty, caring, and courageous. I also greatly enjoyed her “normalcy.” While she is fantastic, she is not, at least now, a hidden chosen one, which, I believe, just would not work for me in this story. Through the story, the three siblings, Sakira, Jet, and Kasta are explored, as well as, the members of their teams. I loved that all the characters became more complex as Zahru spends time with them. It was nice to see that characters, such as Marcus and Melia, among all the team members, had personalities of their own and were not just there as random background characters. I also enjoyed that Sakira was given an opportunity to shine as a character as she could have been pushed to the side in favor of Kasta and Jet, as they are the love interests.
While they are not my favorite trope, I did not mind the love triangle in this story. I was actually surprised in myself as this one even occurs with brothers, yet it was written in a way where it made a lot of sense in the story. There is the option that I hope she chooses in the end, but I have heard others that prefer the other. There is a choice made in this novel, but it could all change in the next, so it will be interesting to see the direction the author takes with the romance.
Overall, this novel makes me very excited to read the sequel! Each character has their own motivations and were all written well. After the unexpected ending, it will be very interesting to see how the sequel brings everything together. The race itself was okay, as far as action went. Instead, it was a fantastic place for me to learn about the different characters. The general pacing of the story is steady as it is neither fast nor slow. The magic abilities tied to a person’s value is a very interesting concept as a social structure as well as the politics with the race to determine a new ruler. This was definitely a story worth reading and I loved the narration of the audiobook! I hope that the sequel lives up to my high expectations based on how well this first novel turned out!