Onyx and Ivory is a return to fast paced and compelling fantasy, following Kate Brighton, or her nickname, Traitor Kate, in her self imposed banishment. This novel started off with a bang, the first line; “Out here darkness meant death”, Kate racing to get her and her horse to the safety of civilization before night, and the nightdrakes fall upon them. It almost reminds me of the darkness of the Nazgul, or Dementors; none of these creatures to be messed with. I love how all we know about Kate at this moment is that she is a relay rider, or courier, akin to the pony express. There’s more to her past obviously, considering the term ‘Traitor Kate’, but the why and how aren’t revealed yet (beyond what is on the book sleeve), and the author does an excellent job of peeling back the layers of this character’s story without driving us all nuts with either referring to that history mysteriously, or talking about it endlessly. Trust me when I say I’ve read those books and groaned the entire time. This book was exciting from the first page to the last, and I loved every second of it, essentially earning it an excited five stars!
Beyond our protagonist, Kate, there is the High Prince, Corwin, Kate’s friend back in the day when her father tried to kill his father; oops. Not to mention that Kate and Corwin are love interests in the novel, making for an interesting reunion and adventure as both find themselves caught on the same path/fate. For some reason, this sounded familiar to something else I had read, at least in terms of the basic relationship, but these characters surprised me, each of them focused on their own goals at first before getting sucked into the emotional drama relationships can bring, and then the political/ethical dramas of their positions and the ever increasing turmoil in the kingdom. (Sorry about that mouthful) Between these two, Corwin’s best friend, Dal, and Kate’s friends Tom Bonner and Signe, this is a tough and fun squad of characters, each worthy of attention, and that’s just the good guys! Mixed in with these are quite a few characters who start out with unknown allegiances/intentions, and characters who we love to hate, though we know we shouldn’t (looking at you Corwin’s brother). I won’t go into the baddies too much since that will reveal a nest of spoilers, but Arnett did a wonderful job of plot twists. I found out a lot that I was on the right path to what was going on, but a few facts short each time.
This isn’t Mindee Arnett’s first book, nor is it her first YA, but this was my first novel I read by her, and it felt special. Why? She loves horses, something that seems to jump from the pages as she describes the horses and the connection the characters have with them. While Kate can touch the minds of the horses, even characters like Corwin, who don’t have magical abilities have their own relationships with the horses, something that not every writer gets. It isn’t exactly like the attachment to dogs, and definitely not like having a cat, but horses, while very instinctual are trusting, and fun loving creatures. This approach to Fantasy was new for me, since usually it’s just ‘they rode to the castle’, or focusing on the characters entirely, which I get that not every author has a background with these animals, but this made a nice and welcome change for me.
This got a whopping five stars from me on goodreads, which I have been trying not to do as much lately (I am an easy grader), but I can’t deny this book kept me captivated from the first page until the end. I also went and looked at when the next book comes out, and lets just say it won’t be soon enough! To bring this to a close, I think if you are into ya fantasy then this book is a great read to try out, especially if you love horses, that was a special treat in there for me. This one will definitely be on my favorites and series watch list. Have you tried this book out yet? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!