Review of The Empire of Dreams

The Empire of Dreams
by Rae Carson
High School    Greenwillow    442 pp.    g
4/20    978-0-06-269190-3    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-269192-7    $10.99

Set in the world of The Girl of Fire and Thorns, this engrossing fantasy follows two threads about protagonist Red. In the present, the teenager is devastated when her planned adoption by her guardian the Empress is sabotaged. She embarks on a high-stakes quest to become the first female recruit in the prestigious Royal Guard. Meanwhile, in a retrospective thread, six-year-old Red escapes her mother’s murderer only to end up enslaved to various tradespeople who make a tidy profit off selling her magically potent blood (a detail that helps contextualize her later behaviors consistent with PTSD). Present-day Red must navigate physically grueling training and conflicts with fellow recruits. But thanks to her leadership, an esprit de corps develops among her training companions, resulting in a closely bonded squad whose abilities face an important test at novel’s climax. Carson gives appropriate attention to the awkward moments encountered by the first female recruit in an elite fighting squad, but Red earns her place with talents and choices that will resonate with readers no matter their gender.

From the March/April 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Anita L. Burkam
Anita L. Burkam
Horn Book reviewer Anita L. Burkam is former associate editor of The Horn Book Magazine.

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