Review published on August 4, 2013. Reviewed by Sara Garland
This is the first of 2 prequels to the internationally bestselling Nightshade trilogy, so consequently it requires no knowledge of the trilogy to read. Set in 15th century Scotland, Ember reaches her 16th birthday to learn she is a personal debt to the order of knights who saved her as a baby.
Born of noble heritage, her father, the powerful, controlling and frankly obnoxious Lord Morrow, does not wish her to go, preferring that she marry a suitable heir to improve his social and financial standing. However, not even he can do anything to release his second daughter from the outstanding debt – not that this won’t stop such a belligerent man from trying.
Although gravely nervous, Ember has always fantasised about fighting and embracing the outdoors. She detests embroidery and the other sombre skills she is expected to entertain. In fact she feels suffocated by the constrained manner in which she is expected to live. Therefore the chance to escape her life has a big appeal, although she is also fearful of what she will be required to do and become when she joins the group called Conatus.
However her lifelong friend Alistair has also joined and written about how much he is enjoying it, and as such she is comforted by the fact that he will be there.
A small group of knights call to collect her. Ember is quietly intrigued by the one knight Barrow, who stands up to her father and puts him in his place, something she has never seen anybody else do before. Following a fighting display arranged to settle at what time they should set off on their journey to the monastery, Barrow show s incredible fighting skill that Ember can only dream of developing.
Having set the background of Ember’s lifelong desires and been quickly drawn into Ember’s world she enters Conatus to learn what will become of her and the trials ahead of her.
Chronicling the rise of the Keepers, what follows is a bag load of action, adventure, magic, and coming of age sexuality and romance. Ember develops as an individual and learns of those around her. Introduced to new skills and completely unheard of creatures and manifestations, there is a need to battle emotions, treachery and evil.
The pace of the book is extremely quick. Tension exudes at every corner. Ember is extremely likeable, depicted as a decent character with integrity. Her blossoming relationship with Barrow is sensitively drawn out with realistic confusion and uncertainty of a young person in a new relationship. The style is exceptionally easy to get into, making it a very easy read in a day story, which also leaves you with a desire to get into the next book Rise; this especially after the cliff-hanger ending and snap shot of the first chapter of the next prequel at the end of the book. This is bound to be a runaway success for new and old readers of the series alike.