For the first time, an Empress Redemptor sits on Aritsar’s throne. To appease the sinister spirits of the dead, Tarisai must now anoint a council of her own, coming into her full power as a Raybearer. She must then descend into the Underworld, a sacrifice to end all future atrocities.
Tarisai is determined to survive. Or at least, that’s what she tells her increasingly distant circle of friends. Months into her shaky reign as empress, child spirits haunt her, demanding that she pay for past sins of the empire.
With the lives of her loved ones on the line, assassination attempts from unknown quarters, and a handsome new stranger she can’t quite trust . . . Tarisai fears the pressure may consume her. But in this finale to the Raybearer duology, Tarisai must learn whether to die for justice . . . or to live for it.
Have you ever read a book that just felt nigh perfect that you struggled to articulate your immense love and awe for a book? That’s how I felt about Raybearer, which remains to be one of my favourite books of all time. I felt, then, that there was a lot at stake for me to love Redemptor, the sequel and conclusion to the Raybearer duology. What if Redemptor doesn’t live up to the brilliance of Raybearer? What if I’m disappointed? Reading series conclusions can be fraught, but if you, like me, loved Raybearer, then breathe a sigh of relief: Redemptor was a phenomenal and deserving conclusion to Tarisai’s story.
Picking up immediately after Raybearer, the revelations of Tarisai’s destiny has shaken the world – and with it, comes a quest to end the needless deaths of Redemptor children. After making a deal with spirits of the dead and haunted by child spirits who demand that she pay for the empire’s sins, Tarisai is given two years to prepare for her journey to the Underworld – but she must decide whether she die for justice, or live for it.
Reading Redemptor solidified for me that Jordan Ifueko is one of the best storytellers of our time. I was in awe after finishing Redemptor, and it was incredibly satisfying to read a sequel that held a candle to the first book. The storytelling in this book is just as phenomenal. Again, a book of reasonable length – 336 pages! – and yet, the story is so tightly woven and well-told that it doesn’t feel its length. Indeed, reading Redemptor offers an immersive and rich reading experience that builds and expands on the story and world outlined bythe first book.
What makes Redemptor work so brilliantly isn’t just because of its phenomenal storytelling. Rather, what makes Redemptor such a good sequel is largely because of its deeply emotional character-driven story intertwined with its strong themes. Specifically, I loved Tarisai in this book; a flawed yet compassionate girl who bears the world upon her shoulders, tries to do her best while also very confronted with the wrongs and injustices of an old world. I couldn’t help but feel that Tarisai’s characterisation was a love letter to teenagers, especially Black teenagers, who feel the injustices of the world intensely and endeavour to make the world a better and more just place, even when such a task feels insurmountable.
As Tarisai is tasked to anoint twelve others and unite a world divided and burdened by past injustices that have created generational trauma, Redemptor poses some great questions about justice and the cost of justice. In addition, the story also explores the question: What does it mean to live? I loved how the story and its developments arrive at their answers, in ways that feel meaningful to Tarisai’s character arc. Further to that, I enjoyed the unique position Tarisai finds herself in: a ruler of great power and to be revered like a deity, but is nonetheless just a teenage girl. What burden or responsibility does her power have against her humanness? How does the intersection of power and humanness feel like? I loved that this story highlights that people do not necessarily exist to sacrifice themselves for something greater; that lives are meaningful even if simply lived.
In addition, if you love the found family trope, then Redemptor will feel like a blessing. I loved the relationships in this book; loved the intimate friendships between the different council members, the soulmate-like relationship between Tarisai and Dayo, and the love that Tarisai and Sanjeet have for one another. In particular, I loved Tarisai’s relationships with Min Ja and Zuri. I enjoyed how Redemptor explores what it means to love someone versus what it means to love the idea of someone – that love is not always romantic, but love can also be about respect, care, and vulnerability.
MY CONCLUSION: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Redemptor is a powerful and worthy sequel to the masterpiece that is Raybearer. Ifueko takes everything that was good in Raybearer, and made it great in Redemptor, wasting no iota of potential or moment to elevate, deepen, and expand on the world and story. With the ending and conclusion to Tarisai’s story, Redemptor solidified for me that the Raybearer series is now one of my all-time favourite duologies – and, I argue, possibly one of the best YA fantasy duologies we have had the privilege of seeing.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: Following from the events of Raybearer, the story follows Tarisai who is tasked to anoint her own council and save the realm from destruction.
Perfect for: Readers who enjoyed Raybearer, readers who love sweeping and immersive fantasies, readers who love the found family trope
Think twice if: You didn’t enjoy Raybearer or aren’t a fantasy reader.
Genre: young adult fantasy
Trigger/content warning: death, depiction of murder, drug use, alcohol use, blood mention, recount of parental abuse and neglect.