Markswoman is the first in a new YA series (Asiana) and debut novel by Canadian author Rati Mehrotra.
The publisher’s synopsis:
Kyra is the youngest Markswoman in the Order of Kali, one of a handful of sisterhoods of highly trained elite warriors. Armed with blades whose metal is imbued with magic and guided by a strict code of conduct, the Orders are sworn to keep the peace and protect the people of Asiana. Kyra has pledged to do so—yet she secretly harbors a fierce desire to avenge her murdered family.
When Tamsyn, the powerful and dangerous Mistress of Mental Arts, assumes control of the Order, Kyra is forced on the run. She is certain that Tamsyn committed murder in a twisted bid for power, but she has no proof.
Kyra escapes through one of the strange Transport Hubs that are the remnants of Asiana’s long-lost past and finds herself in the unforgiving wilderness of a desert that is home to the Order of Khur, the only Order composed of men. Among them is Rustan, a disillusioned Marksman whose skill with a blade is unmatched. He understands the desperation of Kyra’s quest to prove Tamsyn’s guilt, and as the two grow closer, training daily on the windswept dunes of Khur, both begin to question their commitment to their Orders. But what they don’t yet realize is that the line between justice and vengeance is thin . . . as thin as the blade of a knife.
Markswoman is set in what appears to be a future version of India so far away as to be largely unrecognizable as our world. I enjoyed getting to know the world and learning to understand the Orders and meeting Kyra and Rustan. Kyra and Rustan both face moral quandaries, where they must wrestle with what is right and wrong and the shades of gray. The emotional journies they face are directly tied and sometimes at odds with their lives as Markswomen/Marksmen – assassins.
There is also evidence – the Hubs – of an alien presence far in the past, which adds an interesting element that I’m excited to explore in future books.
All the elements of a story I like are present, and I enjoyed reading Markswoman but I found the story to be a bit predictable. Mehrotra laid down threads to carry the story forward, through this book and into sequels, but those threads are obvious to someone who reads a lot of YA fantasy, so I found myself reading almost for confirmation that I was right than out of a sense of discovery and curiosity.
I appreciated the diversity of a novel set in India and featuring a largely non-white cast, something sorely lacking in mainstream media, but that alone isn’t enough to move Markswoman out of an average story.
I’m looking forward to the second book in the series, if only because I want to know what happens to Kyra and Ruston after the bloody ending of the book.
Markswoman hits shelves Tuesday, January 23, and while it isn’t groundbreaking, I did enjoy the read.
I received an eARC of this book from Edelweiss and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.