Amber & Dusk by Lyra Selene follows the traditional YA story arc process, but the lyrical prose and the ending set it apart from other stories.
In the kingdom of the Amber Empire, Sylvie has felt outed her whole life with her gift of spinning illusions so she trudges through the desert-like outskirts called the Dusklands to chase after her birthright as a legacy in Coeur d’Or, the palace of the Amber Empress. But, the Coeur d’Or is not a place where anyone can come and ask for a position so the Empress, Severine, sets a condition that someone must sponsor Sylvie’s success for her to gain a spot. Should Sylvie, now newly named Mirage, hone her skilled to a sharp point and demonstrate it at the Carrousel festival, she will not be killed, and should she fail…well, that’s something everyone can guess. Of course, the classic hot mysterious guy of the court, Sunder, sponsors her and they trade heated glances behind columns while spitting out insults at each other simultaneously. While the deadline for the final exhibition approaches, Mirage encounters intriguing characters from the palace’s two divisions, Sinister and Dexter, which the other legacies of the kingdom are split into based on their personalities and drive. Mirage slowly uncovers the secrets shrouding the Amber Palace and the people within.
A major component of Amber & Dusk is the people who inhabit the palace which should mean characterization should take up half the story. There should be something special about each individual, whether that’s a character who likes to only paint their nails in shades of pink or they are strangely repelled by puns, but I would like to remember someone after I read about them. However, the characters here are so charmless that I have zero attachment to any of them. Literally, if Mirage or Sunder had a heart attack and passed away, I would be undeterred, and now speaking about it, I think that would have made the story more interesting. Also, to my EXTREME frustration, why does Mirage not go through any character development from the beginning to end??! She starts out saying she wants a place to belong, a place that is her birth right (because only the highborn are magically-inclined) but at the end of the story she is still saying the same thing. She doesn’t see the danger involved, or rather, she chooses to ignore them because she now wants to remake the Empire to her vision. Of course there are logical people advising her saying you shouldn’t do that because she has zero experience in ruling a kingdom, but then she blabs about her birthright all over again. To the people who have watched Game of Thrones, when Daenerys kept on saying she should be on the Iron Throne because her father was the king and she kept on demanding Jon Snow to kneel to her, that’s what it felt like for me while reading.
The worldbuilding in a fantasy novel should take up the other half of the story. What I got was more like 25%. First I want to say Lyra Selene’s Amber landscape is fun. The component such as the mining industry for dristic and kembric and the little glimpses of culture with the street peddlers yelling out their goods brought more authenticity to the Amber Empire. While I do wish we got to see more of the country as a whole rather than the events and places that’s only close to Mirage, the lack of worldbuilding is slightly made up for by the pacing. I found the deception and intrigue of the court to be constant.
Lastly, on a good note, Lyra Selene’s prose is vivid and can paint images in your mind like Mirage can weave an elaborate scene where there was once nothing. People who like to read fancy writing, this book is made especially for you.
RATING: 3.8 OUT OF 5 STARS
Amber & Dusk by Lyra Selene will come out on November 27th, 2018. You can preorder it now via Amazon or support your local independent bookstore via Indiebound!
Sylvie has always known she deserves more. Out in the permanent twilight of the Dusklands, her guardians called her power to create illusions a curse. But Sylvie knows it gives her a place in Coeur d’Or, the palais of the Amber Empress and her highborn legacies.
So Sylvie sets off toward the Amber City, a glittering jewel under a sun that never sets, to take what is hers.
But her hope for a better life is quickly dimmed. The empress invites her in only as part of a wicked wager among her powerful courtiers. Sylvie must assume a new name, Mirage, and begin to navigate secretive social circles and deadly games of intrigue in order to claim her spot. Soon it becomes apparent that nothing is as it appears and no one, including her cruel yet captivating sponsor, Sunder, will answer her questions. As Mirage strives to assume what should be her rightful place, she’ll have to consider whether it is worth the price she must pay.