Farrar. Nov. 2020. 368p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780374313357.
Gr 9 Up–Since childhood, a ruthless queen has trained Cadence to use her magic as a weapon. Against a backdrop of eerily topical politics, Cadence struggles with her conscience and complicity in helping her queen stay in power by intimidating and silencing dissidents, and in a world where magic is based on song, those out of the queen’s favor are often silenced—their vocal cords are severed. It’s a task she’s had since she was taken from her family at six, at the time a matter of survival. But when she’s reunited with childhood friend Remi, Cadence starts to question just how responsible she is for the queen’s campaign of intimidation. As the two young women are drawn to the possibility of covert and eventually open rebellion, their friendship rekindles and eventually turns to romance. Ember’s novel unfolds at a leisurely pace, which may frustrate action-seeking readers, but the characters and their motivations are complex and nuanced and need the time to develop. Cadence’s struggle, in particular, is relatable. Remi grapples with an emerging class consciousness and desire to leverage her privileged position to help those unable to help themselves. This is a solid fantasy that weaves queer romance with themes of social justice. Both Remi and Cadence are described as white, a number of other characters are Black, and among the non-noble classes, queer relationships are accepted.
VERDICT An engaging fantasy novel that will push readers to draw parallels between the narrative and contemporary events and conflicts and, hopefully, empower them to use their own voices to stand up for what they believe in.

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