Released: January 8th 2013
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
Ember has always known that she owed her life to a mysterious order of Knights who saved her as a baby. The same order of Knights who called her best friend to service, leaving her behind to play the dutiful daughter.
But shortly after her sixteenth birthday, Alistair returns. Although he seems altered - shadowed and brooding - Ember places her trust in him, knowing that he's her one chance to escape.
Little does she know what danger lies ahead. For this is a tumultuous time, and Ember will soon be caught up in an age-old struggle between darkness and light. Neither she, nor her heart, can possibly survive unscathed. (from Goodreads)
I have not read the Nightshade series by Andrea Cremer, so I went into Rift with no expectations and no idea of what it would be about. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it! I had a few minor problems, but overall, Rift was a very enjoyable book and I’m glad I read it.
Ember was, for me, a great protagonist. In order to repay her father’s debt, she was being sent to a group called Conatus, who were an order of knights. Her family was desperate to stop this happening, but Ember actually wanted to go. She felt restricted by the life she led under her father and the few options available to women of her time; she didn’t want to get married and spend the rest of her years being told what to do and how to dress and how many children to bear. She preferred to fight, and wanted to learn swordsmanship and become a member of the Guard in Conatus, like her childhood friend, Alistair.
One of the reasons I was impressed with Ember was because she actually walked the walk as well as talking the talk. A lot of these supposedly fighter type heroines in YA are actually nothing of the sort (I have also talked about this in my review of Wings of the Wicked here). They talk of wanting to fight and get stronger, but then stand around and do nothing when a difficult situation arises. I hate that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a heroine who is not a fighter, and who isn’t strong. She could be just as awesome in other ways - they shouldn't have to be "strong" to be interesting. If I were in some action novel, I’d probably die in the first ten pages because of lack of fighting experience! But the worst thing is having these characters that are portrayed to be all badass and strong when really they’re just useless and arrogant about themselves for no reason. Just have a normal heroine if that’s going to be the case! Ember, luckily, was not this type of character. She actually trained. She used the weapons forged for her. She got injured trying to do her job. She made mistakes, yes, and had to be saved on occasions, but she also did the saving sometimes. She wasn’t perfect and was still in training. But she tried hard, and I liked that about her. She had some flaws – I didn’t think she was the greatest of sisters (she didn’t notice something I found pretty obvious – and noticing is a pretty big part of being a knight!) and she could often be selfish and hypocritical. But, I think a sixteen year old should be allowed to get away with that in small doses, so I’ll let her off. Plus, as I have said many times in my reviews, perfection is boring.
Barrow was a difficult character for me to understand. I liked him, don’t get me wrong. But he was kind of...odd. He was one of the Guard’s strongest members and had no problem hacking off someone’s arm to prove a point, yet he elected to become Ember’s mentor which would use up a lot of his time and energy. He seemed quite ruthless at the start, yet he was clearly capable of feeling and hurting and desiring. He judged Alistair for wanting to be with Ember, but at the end he didn’t act much differently (though he was more tactful – Alistair was just forceful and stupid on that point). I find it difficult to believe that someone like him would not only fall in love with the one he was training, but would then announce that love to her. But then he did say that he thought he was strong but turned out to be as weak as any other man. I’m surprised he didn’t try to hide it from Ember for longer to avoid endangering his position, but I guess I could understand how he was feeling at the time. I think this was one of the reasons the relationship between Ember and Barrow was so engrossing. It happened quite slowly, trusting each other a little bit more each day, feeling more comfortable around each other, starting to enjoy each other’s company... I think I liked their daily banter and the time they spent together just as much as the romancey bits when they finally admitted their feelings. My only concern was age. I don’t think (correct me if I’m wrong) we were told how old Barrow was. And he seemed quite mature and I would guess at least a few years older than Ember. With Ember being only sixteen, I don’t know how I’d feel if it turned out Barrow was in his twenties. Ember was not the most mature of sixteen year olds as she’d lived a sheltered life and was quite naive in some aspects. Not a major issue but just one to think about.
Plot-wise, I found the purpose of Conatus and their whole mission very intriguing, and the way women were forced to hide their presence among the higher ranks was an issue that I think well reflected society back in those days (though women in the Guard seemed to have a lot more freedom). The fact so many people were corrupt as well added to the fact that it was hard to trust anyone and that all people could do was fight their hardest. I was sort of concerned about the love triangle – I have to admit that when I first suspected there would be one, I was kinda dreading it. But it wasn’t that bad. Alistair liked Ember but it was unrequited (though that might change in the next book, who knows) and his character was actually quite important – he was more than just “the other guy”, but was sort of this tragic character that was tempted and willing to do anything to have his love returned. I’m starting to think maybe something might happen between Alistair and Eira, though (Eira being another character the book focussed on), but maybe not considering her age. I could actually see where Eira was coming from at the start, but she went too far and did things the wrong way.
Overall, I really liked Rift and would definitely recommend it to fans of historical fiction with paranormal, action and romance.