The people of Kaya die in pairs. When one lover dies, the other does too. So it has been for thousands of years – until Ava.
For although her bondmate, Avery, has been murdered and Ava’s soul has been torn in two, she is the only one who has ever been strong enough to cling to life. Vowing revenge upon the barbarian queen of Pirenti, Ava’s plan is interrupted when she is instead captured by the deadly prince of her enemies.
Prince Ambrose has been brought up to kill and hate. But when he takes charge of a strangely captivating Kayan prisoner and is forced to survive with her on a dangerous island, he must reconsider all he holds true . . .
In a violent country like Pirenti, where emotion is scorned as a weakness, can he find the strength to fight for the person he loves . . . even when she’s his vengeful enemy?
Avery is a sweeping, romantic fantasy novel about loss and identity, and finding the courage to love against all odds.
Published by Random House.
NOTE: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This review is presented both as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015 and as part of the Avery blog tour. You can find the previous blog tour stop at Words Read and Written and the next blog tour stop at A Word Shaker.
Avery is the first book in a new Young Adult series by Australian author Charlotte McConaghy, The Chronicles of Kaya.
When Ava’s bond-mate Avery is killed, Ava naturally expects to die as well. But Ava does not die. She fades, grows numb, loses her sense of taste, but she does not die. Rejected by her family and friends, she sets on the only course she can: revenge against the Queen of Pirenti, murderer of Avery. Pirenti is a barbaric country where travelling as a woman is too dangerous, and so she disguises herself as a boy and takes her dead lover’s name, Avery.
In Pirenti, love is seen as weakness and power comes from violence. The princes of Pirenti are Ambrose and Thorne. Thorne is married to the fragile and strange Roselyn, a woman for whom he can express his love for only as violence. When Ava’s path crosses Ambrose’s, and eventually Thorne and Roselyn, everything must change for them all.
This is a book that I would have adored as a teenager. The hook–lovers bonded for life–would have grabbed me and not let go. I can easily see this book and series being a gateway for many younger readers into fantasy, especially those who have mostly read only mainstream YA.
As an adult, and especially as one who has read a lot of fantasy (aimed both at YA and adult audiences), I was initially wary of many of the tropes McConaghy uses in the book. The bonding between lovers veers very close to love at first sight, and the fact that Kayans have colour changing eyes seemed yet another recycling of old tropes.
However, as I read on, I found that McConaghy was pushing past many of these tropes. The colour-changing eyes was used to good effect, and the bonding was shown to be something that didn’t necessarily have to be instantaneous. More refreshing is that Ava herself is never a weak character–she doubts herself at times, but she’s never a damsel in distress.
Some readers will likely find the parts of the story which focus on violence against women (especially Roselyn) confronting, and may wish to avoid the book on that basis. However, as with the other plot threads, I felt that McConaghy explored this with respect (and with an actual cultural reason for the said violence in Pirenti). I actually found Roselyn to be one of the most fascinating characters in the book, and I hope that her story is further explored in the future.
All in all, this was a satisfying read for myself as an adult reader who has consumed a great deal of fantasy, and I could see it easily being an almost obsessive read for many a younger reader. Highly recommended.