When Rin aced the Keju, the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies, it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard, the most elite military school in Nikan, was even more surprising.
But surprises aren’t always good.
Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.
For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .
Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.
I really really loved this book. I initially picked it up about 20 minutes before work, got almost 25-ish pages in and then had to scramble to work. I had exactly zero intention of buying any book (being a broke college student at the moment) and I was so close to leaving my job without running back to Barnes & Noble to pick it up. But, you guys, this book was so good that I couldn’t imagine not having it and devouring that day. So I sped walked all the way back to B&N to buy this book and read it that night.
Let me just say, it was well worth the run and the very pronounced decrease in my checking account. It was such a great read! It was unexpected at every single turn and the amount of character development between Rin and all the other characters was so incredibly well done. Every character was multi-dimensional and backstories that seemed to have no significance ended up being extremely important.