Sixteen-year-old Koral and her older brother Emrik risk their lives each day to capture the monstrous maristags that live in the black seas around their island. They have to, or else their family will starve.
In an oceanic world swarming with vicious beasts, the Landers―the ruling elite, have indentured Koral’s family to provide the maristags for the Glory Race, a deadly chariot tournament reserved for the upper class. The winning contender receives gold and glory. The others―if they’re lucky―survive.
When the last maristag of the year escapes and Koral has no new maristag to sell, her family’s financial situation takes a turn for the worse and they can’t afford medicine for her chronically ill little sister. Koral’s only choice is to do what no one in the world has ever dared: cheat her way into the Glory Race.
But every step of the way is unpredictable as Koral races against competitors―including her ex-boyfriend―who have trained for this their whole lives and who have no intention of letting a low-caste girl steal their glory. As a rebellion rises and rogues attack Koral to try and force her to drop out, she must choose―her life or her sister’s―before the whole island burns.
In this dystopian young adult fantasy, what makes Tanvi Berwah’s novel stand out is the intriguing world and stellar characters. The first thing you learn with this story’s worldbuilding is that this is not a world like our own. It is full of monsters who the humans must struggle against in their day to day life and if they aren’t rich, every step of the way is a race for survival. For Koral it becomes a literal race, one she must try to win in order to save her family. It is an intriguing world and stellar characters
But it is not the monsters of the world that are truly the enemy. No, it’s the monsters created by the society that Koral must truly struggle against. We are quickly shown that the novel is all about freedom, choices, and how hard it is to escape the subjugation of the wealthy, especially when they have all the power. But what makes me love this novel is how Koral stands strong and survives despite the odds and losses along the way.
Koral is a fantastic character in a world full of gray. All of the characters are, really but as the protagonist Koral stands out, with her rage and will to survive. She doesn’t race for glory but to help her family and more importantly, to show herself and others that she can win. Even though she sees some truths too late, she still fights and that is what makes the character so powerful.
If you love novels with strong and fiery female characters, stories full of ambiguity and dystopian concepts that include ideas that resonate with our current state of the world, you will love this book. I loved it and the maristags. The novel has an intriguing world and stellar characters.
Rating: 5 out of 5 maristags