{Review} AMBER AND DUSK by Lyra Selene

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

     The sun had not set on the Amber Empire for a thousand tides. But that didn’t mean my world knew nothing of darkness. 
     Or violence.

(Page 1, US ARC edition)

"Perhaps you want to show the world something only you can see. Something lovely  and strange, and just a little bit monstrous."
~Sunder, AMBER & DUSK

Looking for a debut YA fantasy novel that remains its own world even while containing some of your favorite tropes? The closest comparisons I have for you are A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES by Sarah J Maas (In particular, that time spent Under the Mountain and never knowing whether or not you could trust Rhys, FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS by Julie C. Dao (The ambition to rise higher than one's station! The question of if one is a hero or a villain!), THE YOUNG ELITES by Marie Lu (Again, a hero or a villain? Mixed in with the ability to weave illusions!), and THE RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard (The power, the politics, the court!). If you loved those worlds, AMBER & DUSK is going to be your next favorite read.

Sylvie has always lived a hard life. Despite the fact that she is a Legacy, she lives far from the Coeur d'Or, on the edge of the Dusklands. She steals away from the Sisters of the Scion that raised her and travels to court, determined to seize the greatness she was destined to wield. Court, however, is not all that Sylvie expected it to be. The Empress loves games, and puts a wager on Sylvie's head: Will she be able to control her Legacy and wield her magic with the help of a sponsor? And what happens when the sponsor who steps up is cruel and calculating? He's betting she'll lose, and sponsors her in the name of his greatest rival so that they'll take the fall when she fails. But Sylvie is determined to succeed as she steps into her new role, complete with a new name: Mirage.

Sylvie has a lot of ambition. At one point, she is referred to as "You're ambitious. You're arrogant. Perhaps even a little cruel. Whatever gave you the idea that you were owed so much, when you offer so little?" (page 110, ARC edition) It echoed sentiments I felt at times myself. Despite growing up low-born, Sylvie truly believes she deserves greatness. She believes her parents must have been highborn, even though she could have a Legacy with a lower status in life as well. She believes there is a lot owed to her. Despite the cruelties of court life, she knows she belongs there and wants everything the other Legacies have. In that sense, she isn't always easy to root for, and sometimes reminds me of Xifeng from FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS by Julie C. Dao. While she has the potential to become a villain herself, I feel that the rest of the series will explore her flaws. There is good in her, and its likelier that she will be a villain, but that the steel at her core will save her from being eaten alive in the world she has chosen.

Another interesting character to analyze is Sunder. He reminds me SO much of Rhy from A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES and part of A COURT OF MIST AND FURY by Sarah J. Maas. For those who haven't read the series and want to remain spoiler-free, I will say that Rhys is a very complex, calculating character. He is playing a long, complicated game and Feyre doesn't quite trust him. As a reader, and perhaps because he reminded me so much of Rhys, I wondered about Sunder. Is he a horrible villain that will oppose Sylvie later on? Can she trust him because he's secretly good? Is my internal comparison to Rhys coloring my expectation for Sunder and he's none of the above? Sunder intrigued me as a character, and I really wanted to learn more about him and his role in the story.

I really liked the original mythology woven into the world and hope it is somehow more than a myth and will play a more significant part in the series because it was just so interesting, you know? I also liked the worldbuilding and the magic system. It wasn't exactly the same thing we always see in YA fantasy. I also enjoyed the French influence, which enhanced the world and gave it a different feel. Some of the magic built scenes full of wonder and awe, resulting in places I'd like to visit within a court I'd otherwise like to stay far away from. 

While it wasn't a breakout, blow me away fantasy, it was enjoyable and I'll definitely be picking up the sequel. It has tropes that I've enjoyed in other books, a unique world I'd like to explore further, and complex characters that will keep me on my toes waiting to discover their endgame. 


Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance:G ( Kissing)
Language: G ( Damn/Damned )
Violence: PG13 ( A scene with a character covered in blood; a battle where death and blood is involved and a little messy )
Other: PG13 ( Allusions to what characters may choose to do romantically after a party; innuendo about being unable to perform magic quipped to mean something else that may go over a young reader's head; a comment to the main character that she might have spent the night away from her bed; a bet on whether or not the main character can be seeduced )
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I can't wait to see the finished copy in person. If the book has special finishes and embellishes, it's going to be STUNNING! I really like the coloring and design. I love when fantasy has this structure over faces; it's so much more intriguing to me and helps me envision my own world. The cover is what caught my eye first this time, followed by the summary!
O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Lyra Selene
Release Date: November 27, 2018
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Received: For Review


Sylvie has always known she deserves more. Out in the permanent twilight of the Dusklands, her guardians called her power to create illusions a curse. But Sylvie knows it gives her a place in Coeur d'Or, the palais of the Amber Empress and her highborn legacies.

So Sylvie sets off toward the Amber City, a glittering jewel under a sun that never sets, to take what is hers.

But her hope for a better life is quickly dimmed. The empress invites her in only as part of a wicked wager among her powerful courtiers. Sylvie must assume a new name, Mirage, and begin to navigate secretive social circles and deadly games of intrigue in order to claim her spot. Soon it becomes apparent that nothing is as it appears and no one, including her cruel yet captivating sponsor, Sunder, will answer her questions. As Mirage strives to assume what should be her rightful place, she'll have to consider whether it is worth the price she must pay.