The Eyes of Tamburah by Maria V. Snyder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
3.75 Stars, bumped to 4 because this really should be published in the US, Harper Voyager. Come on!
Popular YA author Maria V. Snyder (Study series, Glass series) has begun her new Archives of the Invisible Sword series by introducing us to Shyla, a young woman who is largely ostracized in her community thanks to her blonde hair. Dubbed "Sun-Kissed" by those around her, the fate that usually awaits the fair-haired is death in the searing desert above Zirdai. Zirdai is an underground city where the deepest levels represent safety from lethal sun exposure and access to water. The deepest levels of this subterranean world are those occupied by the Water Prince and the Heliacal Priestess (who would love to see Shyla thrown out to die from sun exposure) the two powerful and opposing forces of Zirdai. Raised until age eighteen by monks who rescued her from being a sacrifice to the Sun Goddess, Shyla has kept a low profile after choosing to live in Zirdai, rather than becoming a monk like those who rescued her. She is living on the edge of safety, on level three, eking out a living doing historical artifact research until her friend Banqui loses a legendary treasure that her research helped him find. The Eyes of Tamburah, a relic that supposedly grants the possessor magical powers, is sought by the two opposing powers of Zirdai who are more than a bit dissatisfied upon hearing Banqui say they have been stolen from him. When he is arrested for their theft by the Water Prince, a man with a reputation for torture, Shyla seeks to help her only friend recover the lost Eyes.
Snyder has created aa fascinating world in Zirdai. In a pronounced difference from her earlier Inside Out series, the deeper levels of Zirdai are for the most privileged as they are better distanced from the unforgiving sun. Shyla is a lonely character for whom the reader feels great sympathy. Unfortunately, I didn't always feel that some of the secondary characters were as well drawn as Shyla and some of the turnabouts for characters like Rendor and Jayden felt a bit thin. The pacing of the novel slowed in a few places as Shyla is forced to go up and down again and again through the levels of Zirdai, in pursuit of items or information that will help her in the task of recovering the Eyes and freeing Banqui. I was also left with uncertainty about several figures in the story based on where the Eyes are actually finally located. I'm hoping a lot will be cleared up with 2020's publication of the second book in the series, The City of Zirdai. And I hope that HarperCollins will get a move on publishing this novel in the USA.
CW: mentions/brief descriptions of torture, something that may give nightmares to readers that the protagonist chooses to do, and scenes of tight spaces that may be difficult to read for those with claustrophobia.
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