I liked this more than any of the Nightshades books - color me shocked because I loved those books, and I really couldn't see how the story could get better, but it did. What I really loved about Rift, the first of a prequel series, was that it got a little medieval. That took the feel from paranormal to fantasy, and I LOVED it! There wasn't a hint of a werewolf though, so rabid wolf-loving readers should approach Rift with that knowledge I think, in order to stave off potential disappointment. I'm sure they are coming, but you'll have to wait a while longer.
I really connected very well with the heroine, Ember. She begins Rift under the heel of her overbearing and rather disgusting father... forced into suitable pursuits for a young noble girl, like needle craft, while she tries very hard not to wreck her fancy gowns. All the while, she sneaks off into the middle of nowhere to practice wielding a sword. Her one beacon of hope is that since birth she has been promised to a shadowy branch of the church called Conatus... she doesn't know a lot about them, but she fantasizes about what her life could be like with a little more freedom.
When Ember is summoned to begin her service in Conatus, her father blusters about and threatens them with all kinds of hot air, to try and keep power over her and see her married off to a nice boy; it was delightful to read how easily the knights of Conatus just shrugged him off. One knight in particular immediately made note of himself... Barrow Hess. Oh, Barrow. You may have a slightly strange name, but I'd love to... *blush/swoon*... where was I?! He will absolutely push his way into your top ten book boyfriend list. Yes, he is a first grade kick ass knight, and he steps up to become Ember's mentor. If I've never mentioned how much I love a good mentor/mentee relationship, now is the time I cite the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead, and the Covenant series by Jennifer Armentrout. *wink* Forbidden hotness & self-denial in spades, as you fill find here. The romance that was woven into Rift was toe-curlingly good. It was gently done - executed in the style of Jane Austen, in terms of lingering looks, uncertainty and pounding hearts - and it built magnificently to two simply delicious scenes that pretty much reduced me to a limp, satisfied, wreck of a reader.
I really enjoyed reading about Ember's transition from stubborn & determined new recruit to a woman not to be messed with. She is tenacious, slightly naive, and a joy to read. She picks up some knightly skills, bizarre but awesome weapons (which I had to Google to see if I had imagined them correctly, as the UK edition doesn't helpfully have them on it's beautiful cover!), and the best horse that I've read since Kiki in Magic Study by Maria V Snyder... this one doesn't talk, but he munches thoughtfully on Ember's braid.
Of course, being as this is a prequel book there are certain plot points that readers know will happen in the future. It lends a serious sense of impending doom to the read that would be otherwise quite difficult to create. I found it fascinating to see how the character of Bosque Mar from the Nightshade series made his mark on Rift. For much of the book, I really could have been reading about an entirely different world, due to the difference in time setting (AD 1400 rather than present day); when the shift happened to join the Rift world up with the Nightshade world, it was done very well and with a good deal of subtle horror.
The future for Ember and Barrow is uncertain, but I can't wait to find out what's in store for them. Oh the wait for Rise, the next book in the series, is going to be a painful one. *sigh*
Chronicling the rise of the Keepers, this is the stunning prequel to Andrea Cremer's internationally bestselling Nightshade trilogy!Sixteen-year-old Ember Morrow is promised to a group called Conatus after one of their healers saves her mother's life. Once she arrives, Ember finds joy in wielding swords, learning magic, and fighting the encroaching darkness loose in the world. She also finds herself falling in love with her mentor, the dashing, brooding, and powerful Barrow Hess. When the knights realize Eira, one of their leaders, is dabbling in dark magic, Ember and Barrow must choose whether to follow Eira into the nether realm or to pledge their lives to destroying her and her kind.With action, adventure, magic, and tantalizing sensuality, this book is as fast-paced and breathtaking as the Nightshade novels.