by Andrea Cremer
prequel to Nightshade
Sixteen-year-old Ember Morrow is promised to a group called Conatus after one of their healers saves her mother's life. Once she arrives, Ember finds joy in wielding swords, learning magic, and fighting the encroaching darkness loose in the world. She also finds herself falling in love with her mentor, the dashing, brooding, and powerful Barrow Hess. When the knights realize Eira, one of their leaders, is dabbling in dark magic, Ember and Barrow must choose whether to follow Eira into the nether realm or to pledge their lives to destroying her and her kind.
It's been a little while since I read an Andrea Cremer book and I'd forgotten how easily she draws me right into the Nightshade world! Now, this book is a prequel, so it takes place in an older society, and I thought she did a really great job fleshing out this time period. Though many things are still secret (we are dealing with a secret sect of a religious army derived from the Templars, after all), the process by which the initiates choose and are accepted into their branch of service was well thought out and interesting, and the power structure of their world was explored just enough to be illuminating, but Cremer wisely withheld enough to make things very intriguing for the sequel...
I liked the very Celtic feel of this time and place. This was strongly enhanced by listening to the narrator of the audio book, Sile Birmingham, who did an excellent Scots accent. With action, romance, and a very creepy "bad guy," I cannot wait to dive into this world again in the sequel, Rise, which will be coming out this spring.