Read for: Requested Review/ Netgalley
Synopsis: "In this epic standalone fantasy, the acclaimed author of the Queens of Renthia series introduces an imaginative new world in which a pair of strong and determined women risk their lives battling injustice, corruption, and deadly enemies in their quest to become monster racing champions.
Life, death, and rebirth -- in Becar, everyone knows that who you are in this life will determine what you are in your next life. The augurs can read your fate in your aura: hawk, heron, tortoise, jackal, human. Armed with that knowledge, you can change your destiny with the choices you make, both in this life and your next. But for the darkest individuals, there is no redemption: you come back as a kehok, a monster, and you will always be a kehok for the rest of time.
Unless you can win the Races.
As a professional trainer, Tamra was an elite kehok rider. Then a tragic accident on the track shattered her confidence, damaged her career, and left her nearly broke. Now Tamra needs the prize money to prevent the local temple from taking her daughter away from her, and that means she must once again find a winning kehok . . . and a rider willing to trust her.
Raia is desperate to get away from her domineering family and cruel fiancé. As a kehok rider, she could earn enough to buy her freedom. But she can't become good enough to compete without a first-rate trainer.
Impressed by the inexperienced young woman's determination, Tamra hires Raia and pairs her with a strange new kehok with the potential to win -- if he can be tamed.
But in this sport, if you forget you're riding on the back of a monster, you die. Tamra and Raia will work harder than they ever thought possible to win the deadly Becaran Races -- and in the process, discover what makes this particular kehok so special."
My Review: I have really enjoyed Durst's books in the past so jumped at the chance to read a standalone fantasy. I was immediately drawn to the character Tamara, she is snarky and feisty. The world building was fantastic, smooth and I felt completely enveloped in the setting and culture. Speaking of culture, the use of reincarnation in this book was unique and intriguing. It was a thrilling ride with all the danger around every corner. The background of politics was a nice backdrop that kept you trying to put the pieces together. It also had an interesting play on good and evil, and the way power can corrupt. There were also themes around family. All in all it was an engrossing, thrilling and satisfying standalone.
My Rating: I was so drawn into this story, it is a long one being a standalone fantasy, but so worth it! I loved every minute of this book, the world, magic system, the cast of characters, the politics, the twists and turns, all of it. I give it a rating of Four Paws and a Stump Wag!
I received a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley, the following is my honest review and opinion.