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They are the light against the darkness.

The steel against the necromancy of the Druj.

And they use demons to hunt demons….

Nazafareen lives for revenge. A girl of the isolated Four-Legs Clan, all she knows about the King’s elite Water Dogs is that they leash wicked creatures called daevas to protect the empire from the Undead. But when scouts arrive to recruit young people with the gift, she leaps at the chance to join their ranks. To hunt the monsters that killed her sister.

Scarred by grief, she’s willing to pay any price, even if it requires linking with a daeva named Darius. Human in body, he’s possessed of a terrifying power, one that Nazafareen controls. But the golden cuffs that join them have an unwanted side effect. Each experiences the other’s emotions, and human and daeva start to grow dangerously close.

As they pursue a deadly foe across the arid waste of the Great Salt Plain to the glittering capital of Persepolae, unearthing the secrets of Darius’s past along the way, Nazafareen is forced to question his slavery—and her own loyalty to the empire. But with an ancient evil stirring in the north, and a young conqueror sweeping in from the west, the fate of an entire civilization may be at stake…

***Disclaimer: I received a copy in exchange for a review.***

This was an intriguing read.

What’s Good: It started off pretty well, getting right into the heart of what motivated the heroine, Nazafareen, to want to battle the evil spirits- the Druj- for possessing her sister.

The change of pace was refreshing- a fantasy based upon Persian mythology and culture, albeit while still relying upon the same YA tropes.  A few nuggets of historical info- such as Persians having invented polo- were excellent touches that added depth and color to the world.

Tijah, a fellow Water Dog, was a good character that needed more exposure.  Her story was an interesting one and I wanted more of it.

What’s Bad:  Ilyas.  While his story arc- instead of Nazareen’s- drove the plot I never felt anything for him or it.  It felt like set pieces strung together to move the characters where they needed to be.

The mystique surrounding the origins and powers of the daevas is… murky.  It didn’t help to have Darius bascially say that daevas were using the Force (Nexus) and through it he could tell that the stars were actually suns.

And apparently no other daeva noticed this before, either.  Heckuva medieval fantasy this is.  Plus as a character, Darius’ arc was so transparent it was boring.

You’re also given little info on what the Druj are, where they came from or how they work.  The encounter at the beginning of the story left me with some questions I never got answers for.

What’s Left: Ultimately, I was never sure of what the author was trying to accomplish.  Often it felt like too much too soon- one moment we’re learning about everything as Nazafareen does, exploring the world in bits and pieces.  The next we’re unlocking ancient secrets and revealing long buried truths well hidden by lies for centuries… all within the first half of the book.  The first book of the series, no less.  You can’t help but wonder what’s left to do or where the series headed after all this.

Towards the end it all felt rushed and piled on in an effort to tantalize and shock the reader into the next book, and it didn’t work for me.  Not that there isn’t lots to like about this story, but also lots to scratch your head about.

3.5/5 stars.