A review by Lenise Prater
The front cover of this prequel to the Nightshade trilogy features two people about to kiss, and the tagline reads: “War will tear them apart. Love will bring them together”. After reading Nightshade, with its emphasis on romance, it seemed a safe assumption that Rift was going be in the same vein.
I was surprised to find how little of the text was actually dedicated to the relationship between Ember, the protagonist, and the man she grows to love. I won’t use his name here as it’s hinted at early on but not really revealed until later in the book. There’s a love triangle of sorts in the text (which is true of Nightshade as well)… but this isn’t really the focus of the plot. Rather, these increasingly complex relationships are sidelined in favour of Ember’s quest.
Far more fascinating is the story of dark creatures like kelpies and night striga (and other more mysterious beings) gaining power in the Scottish Lowlands in the 1400s. The order of Conatus, a religious and martial order much like the Templars, is dedicated to fighting these creatures.
Ember joins them and learns that magic is not only real but that it is being used in an ongoing battle between the humans in the order of Conatus and the dark creatures. Women are allowed to join this order as members of the guard, but this remains a secret from the rest of the world.
In Rift, the characterisation is well done, and the plot is quite gripping. So many contemporary young adult fantasy novels are urban fantasies, set in our world but with vampires and werewolves added; it was refreshing to read a novel set in a distant time period with different fantasy creatures – and Cremer does do a good job making the setting intriguing but without going into so much detail that the story suffers. This may not be for everyone, but I particularly enjoyed that Ember’s relationship with her new horse was at least as important, if not more so, than her learning how to use her weapons or deal with Alistair’s infatuation!
There were a few awkward transitions between sections and sentences that I thought an editor should really have fixed up, but overall this is a pretty good young adult fantasy text, featuring the occasional frisson of sexual tension between characters.