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.
Description taken from Goodreads
The telepathic kalishium used to create the blades used by the markswomen and marksmen reinforces this post-apocalypse atmosphere as the metal predates a great war that devastated Asiana, although its exact origins are far more enigmatic. These blades are amazing fantasy weapons, not because they’re overtly telepathic (they aren’t) but because of the spiritual bond they share with the markswomen.
Kyra is an uncommonly well-balanced character. Maturity and wisdom blend effortlessly with the petulant rebelliousness of a teenager growing into themselves under the pressures of new responsibilities. This is most obvious in the complex relationship Kyra has with Shirin Mam, who is both her mother figure and the revered leader of her order. Kyra’s struggle to balance these two views produces an interesting and entirely relatable internal conflict. There is also a subtle social conflict in Markswoman, in that the markswomen of the four oldest orders look down on the men comprising the Order of Khur, usually with a level of misandry. I thought this was an interesting reversal of rigid patriarchal structures and the misogyny they tend to breed.
I’ve got to admit that the first page of Markswoman gave me pause. I’ve learned to distrust books that include excerpts from their world’s ancient history, or prophecies of some form, as they tend to turn into riddles hinting at the plot. This was not the case with Markswoman as the few inserts of historical information are actually interesting, not weighed down by verbosity or overly elegant language, and don’t contain impossible story clues. They’re also short and allow the reader to remain fully immersed in the story, which picks up momentum from the first chapter. Current motivations intertwine with secrets from the past, old grievances, and mysteries from a long ago age to form an unforgettable story. The conclusion is satisfying overall while still promising that the next Asiana book will be just as good, or better.