First prequel to the Nightshade series
By Andrea Cremer
Available now from Philomel (Penguin)
Read my reviews of NIGHTSHADE, WOLFSBANE, and BLOODROSE
Andrea Cremer is in a tricky position with RIFT. Those who read the original trilogy know exactly where things are going. But new readers, like protagonist Ember, are new to this world. Cremer must try to satisfy both sets of readers.
Ember is a noblewoman pledged to Conatus since one of their healers saved her and her mother during a difficult birth. She's perfectly happy to join the monastic order, but her father would prefer to marry her off in order to forge an alliance. But Conatus is not any old order. The members secretly fight against witches whose dark magic imperils the entire world. And one of the highest ranked members, Eira, is being tempted by that magic.
I enjoyed that there wasn't a love triangle in RIFT. There are two guys in Ember's life, but one she's actively pursuing and the other doesn't understand the word no. I don't consider that a love triangle, although some might. It's a scarily realistic part of the book, relevant to issues today despite being set in medieval times. Alistair is the ultimate Nice Guy.* While there is nothing wrong with being nice, Nice Guys think that being a girl's friend entitles them to have sex with her. Since Ember tries to remain his friend after shooting him down, Alistair still thinks he has a chance and doesn't back off. It's classic creeper behavior and I wish it weren't so recognizable.
But I do wish we got a little less of Ember learning to use her weapons and hanging out with Barrow and Alistair. Nightshade trilogy readers might already know about Eira and her twin Cian, but they're still the most interesting figures in the story. They're the people who go down in history. But despite having a few chapters through their points of view, they remain ciphers. Eira is motivated by power. Cian not so much, since she doesn't go along with her sister. I also wonder whether Ember's sister will show up in RISE. The beginning half of the book teases her secrets, but she disappears completely after leaving Ember with Conatus.
Cremer's fans will enjoy RIFT. Like NIGHTSHADE and its two sequels, it has a dynamic heroine, an intriguing and consistent world, and good action scenes. The medieval setting is well researched and provides a nice change. Most of the main characters are progressive thinkers, but the thoughts of the world outside of Conatus seem in line with the times. Ember is religious, as usual for a woman of her time, even if she does want to learn to be a warrior.
Cremer is in a tricky position, but RIFT is a pageturner that should satisfy both old and new fans.
*This Something Positive comic explains it in less words and with more pictures.