Sunday, January 21, 2018

Early Review of Markswoman (Asiana #1) by Rati Mehrotra

Title: Markswoman (Asiana #1)
Classification: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
Series: Asiana (Book 1)
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Harper Voyager (January 23, 2018)
ISBN-10: 0062564544
ISBN-13: 978-0062564542
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Therefore, all quotes must be checked against the final copy as they are subject to change.

"May you Walk on water and pass through fire..."

Centuries ago there was a war to end all wars--The Great War. Not much is left from the time period known as the golden age. Much of the structures are gone, and the rule of Kings and Queens has long since passed. No texts survived and knowledge of the technology was lost to the sands of time. Asiana had to be rebuilt from the ground up using whatever scraps and pieces the survivors could find and salvage.

"To live we must die, and to rule we must serve, and to uphold the peace we must kill..."

Asiana was divided into five sections. Each one ruled and policed by one of the five Orders of Peace--Kali, Zorya, Valavan, Mat-su and Khur. All the Orders, save one, are run entirely by women known as the Markswomen. The exception is the Order of Khur, the youngest of all the Orders. It is the only one comprised entirely of men--the Marksmen. The Orders were formed upon the recommendations made in texts written at the end of the Great War by the last ruling King of Asiana. Known as the Kanun of Ture-asa, it bound all the clans and established the law of the land.

"The katari belongs to you. But you need to make sure that your emotions don't rule your blade."

Markswomen and Marksmen are the highly trained force who mete out justice and the only ones legally allowed to kill. With each kill they mark their skin with a cut, hence, their name. Inner Speech is the gift of kalishium which is what the Markswomen's/Marksmen's katari's are made from. A Markswoman bonds telepathically with their weapon and when properly trained, they can read and control other people's minds and actions. The deeper the bond, the greater the ability.

"We must remember who we kill and why. Our blood for theirs."

One young Markswoman will seek justice for the Mahimata (the leader) of her Order whom she believes met her end by foul play. In doing so she will come to find her path in the world, and come to understand what her beloved friend and mentor had tried to teach her and why.

"Being a Markswoman is not about taking revenge. If you kill in anger, you are no better than the ones you execute."

The Orders have worked for over eight hundred years, but the world changes with time and so must everyone along with it. It is whispered that the power of the Orders is beginning to fade. Kyra's quest for justice will make her begin to question the way of the Orders, and lead her on a different path than the one she planned. Her quest will bring about the winds of change.

"Let the past be what it is. Let the future bring what it will. Stay in the present. Be aware of yourself and who you are. It is all that matters."

I really liked this story. It took me some time to get into because there is a whole lot to this universe, so it took me awhile to get acclimated. Gradually, we learn more about Asiana and the Orders of Peace as Kyra completes her final test before being formerly accepted into the sisterhood of Markswomen. Kyra is one of the youngest in the Order of Kali and we get to see her earn her first mark. She's lived with the Order since the age of five when her family and entire clan was murdered. Kyra found her place in the Order, and can't imagine not being part of it. When the leader of her Order is found dead, a women who was very much like a mother to Kyra, she believes foul play is involved, especially since the person she suspects of doing it will become Shirin Mam's successor. Kyra quickly disengages herself from the Order on the ruse of seeking out the rightful heir to Shirin Mam's katari. The journey that ensues takes her on one of discovery. She learns things about herself, the Orders, and her teacher. It helps her to see things more clearly and ready her for what is to come.

You see, when Kyra left on her quest, she was marked a defector. In order for her to go home she'll need to challenge the new Mahimata to a duel. Prior to Tamsyn's promotion to Mahimata, she was the Order's Mistress of Mental Arts and the Hand of Kali--Shirin Mam's executioner of choice. No one dares challenge Tamsyn because of her fierce reputation with her blade. Luckily, when Kyra finds herself literally at the door of the Order of Khur, they take her in and agree to train her so she'll have a chance at beating Tamsyn. It's there that she'll learn things that have been kept from her and realize the importance of Shirin Mam's teachings, and start to question some of the practices of the Orders.

The katari blades reminded me a little of the Shardblades in Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive series. The Orders with their 'good vs evil' mentality and mind bending skills reminded me a touch of the Jedi of Star Wars fame. The references to the 'Ones' had me a little baffled. Who exactly are they, where did they come from, and what, if any, role did they play in the coming about of the Great War? Those questions have yet to be answered. Then there are the doors which appear to be remnants of the technology from the world long since destroyed. They seem to be passageways not only to other places in Asiana, but are they also a means to travel through time? I found these very cool yet also very confusing. I hope at some point how they work will be more fully explained. They kind of reminded me of the movie Arrival and how things seemed to get a little out of sequence (time wise) and you needed to figure out how they fit together.

Overall, I gave this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. I loved the relationships in this tale especially the one blooming between Kyra and Rustan, and look forward to seeing how this love affair will grow. There were quite a few interesting twists and turns which kept me glued to the pages once I settled into the story. The world building was phenomenal, although we've only seen a small portion of it. The series is shaping up to be something special, but I was left with a lot of unanswered questions. The author seeded the story with so many puzzle pieces that, as of yet, don't quite fit together though we're starting to see the edges of it take shape. It's the type of story that gives your imagination lease to run wild and try to puzzle it out before the next book. I'm guessing this was a ploy by the author to keep my interest piqued until the next installment comes out. Depending on how those questions are answered and how things are explained and handled, this series could become one of my favorites. I'm cautiously optimistic that that will be the case, but we'll have to wait and see where the author takes it. I look forward to seeing if any of my hypotheses are correct.

Notes to keep you in the know...
There seems to be a touch of concepts from the Hindu religion woven into the story...

Mahimata is a term which literally means Mother Earth.

Kali is a goddess in the Hindu religion known as the Goddess of destruction. Said by some to be the destroyer of evil forces and by others the destroyer of ego. She is also known and worshiped for being the Divine Mother or Mother of the Universe. She is also hailed by some to be a protector and the one who bestows moksha, or liberation.

To find out more. check out these links:
Wikipedia -
Ancient History Encyclopedia -

There also seems to be a little buddhism woven in too...

The wheel of life with eight spokes is primarily used only in Buddhism and is often times referred to as the wheel of Dharma. The eight spokes represent the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism which are said to (depending on where you look) lead either to spiritual enlightenment, Nirvana, or pain relief.
To find out more. check out these links:

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