Rada was one of the most unique dark fantasies I have read in a long time. With a 6-year-old protagonist who is charming and wildly determined to face her fears, it was hard not to be enamoured with her story.
Rada is excited to meet her new sister, she can’t wait to have someone to play with, and boss around, someone to steal apple cakes with. What Rada doesn’t know is that the newest member of her family will be born disfigured. A fate that will not, under any circumstances be accepted by her father. Upon hearing the news, he is determined to see the child killed, no child of his will show their face in the world with a blemish upon their body.
Fear spreads throughout the birthing chamber as the child is brought to light, but Jadzia will not let her daughter be taken. Rada is given her first dangerous mission; find the Emperor and beg him for help. Beg him to spare the child and bless her with a name that will determine the paths of their fate forever.
Jadzia hatches a plan to save the babe, a plan that Rada will lie and cheat her way through to be included. The path ahead is dangerous, but it is the only one that will save her sister.
A world of intricate politics, backstabbing and rivalries unfold rapidly before the two youngest members of the family. Whatever happens, the love they have for each other will keep them fighting until the very end.
This story had my heart in ways I didn’t expect, my favourite aspect was the dynamic between mother and daughter. It was a relationship to be celebrated and one that certainly tugged on the heartstrings. Both Jadzia and Rada were fierce, defiant, and determined. They would let nothing stand in their way as they battled patriarchal authorities and fought for what was right. The pride Jadzia has for her children shines through the pages. I could also feel how scared she was when Rada or the babe were in dangerous situations and how she had to battle with feelings of fear and determination when it came to letting this little girl discover the world and its dangers for herself.
I also loved how smart Jadzia was, playing the politics of this world to her advantage while allowing me as the reader to uncover the world through her decisions. The world that she lives, and the one she has bought her children into is nothing short of brutal. If you are someone who enjoys a smart mama bear, who knows how to play her hand, you’ll likely have a good time with this book. That being said, the star of the show is her daughter Rada.
Rada will not be kept down. For someone so young she is faced with an incredible number of challenges, from giant spiders to bandits and a very stubborn horse who only has eyes for her. At every turn she either fights her fear or uses it as fuel to get through the next struggle. This little firecracker can’t help but charm the reader, I had a few moments where I laughed at loud at this kids’ antics. Sure, she can take out a bandit’s eye with a slingshot, but minutes after that she is arguing with a horse for not giving into her demands.
The author has done an excellent job of allowing me to see the world through both adult and childlike points of view. As Rada started making connections about the world around her, I got to experience how that shapes her actions. Not only that, but how it will shape her actions in future books. Without spoilers, this book ends in a way that made me excited to see where these kids go next.
Don’t think you are in for a light and airy time her folks; this book is dark. But the author has done a good job of coupling the darkness with lighter moments to break the tension and make you laugh. If you are looking for something different, to challenge what you know about dark fantasy, give this one a go, you might find you like it as much as I did.