As promised! Here is my review of Strayborn, the book I told you about earlier this week and interviewed the author for!
Strayborn has all the boxes checked for a great series starter and five stars from me. As YA fantasy that is appropriate for young ya readers, I get the impression the whole series will grow and develop with readers. It’s definitely got vibes that readers of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter can enjoy. There were elements throughout that reminded me of the Mistborn series, too, which I enjoyed!
Full of mystery, Strayborn follows Cyrus, a half-human, half-vempar carrying a secret inside herself not even she knows, and Aken-Shou, a pureblood vempar boy hated by his own kind and determined to prove he is not the scourge they all believe him to be.
While Cyrus pretends to be a boy at a school for vempar children with abilities who want to join the DG (Draev Guardian) League, she meets a boy who has a sweet tooth that gets him into trouble on a regular basis. That boy, Aken-Shou, is the last remaining pureblood–or scourgeblood as his people call him. They hate him for what he is, born out of fear, but he is going to prove them all wrong. He’s not the beast they believe he will become…but the small voice in his head is growing stronger.
Still, when Cyrus struggles to fit in and find her place in the world, somehow he finds the words to help her in a terrible moment of pain.
“But you can’t give up. Things can only get better if you keep working at it.”
Her shoulders shuddered involuntarily. “It’s too hard…”
“I know.” He patted her back. “But you don’t have to struggle through it alone. Lord God brought you here for a reason. I know that’s a very Nephryte thing to say, but I believe it’s true. You have value.”
Cyrus looked up at him. All this time she’d hated herself for being different, for being ridiculed by others. She had let people determine her value. But God had given her life just as He’d given them life, and that meant she had value, no matter what anybody else thought. Why had it taken her so long to acknowledge that? “Thanks, Aken. You know, sometimes you actually sound smart.” He grinned.Strayborn by E.E. Rawls
Through tragedy and plans beyond their understanding, these two become unlikely friends at a school for those with elemental abilities. But no one wants to see either of them succeed expect the ragtag group of kids who share their floor called Harlow.
Between hazy pasts, weird dreams, being chased by Corpsed, and the possibility of prison for one and the threat of death for the other, Cyrus & Aken will pull you into their world and leave you wanting more.
A strong theme throughout Strayborn is even in our differences we are loved and cherished by our creator equally. I feel like this is timely and so good for youth to hear, even in fiction. The ideas of finding family in unlikely places, of sacrificing wants for the needs of those you care about, of working past what people look like on the outside to see who they truly are . . . these are themes that are interwoven throughout the story, giving the characters life and making them each lovable in their own ways.
My favorite character, though, is their teacher/advisor, Master Nephryte. There’s something mysterious from his past even that I just have to know!
“Were you there when my mother died? Did you have something to do with it? She was murdered by someone powerful, you know.”— how could she ask that to his face? He’d been nothing but kind. She shouldn’t suspect him based solely on a dream.Cyrus – Strayborn by E.E. Rawls
There’s also a great history to the story E.E. Rawls’ worldbuilding hints at that makes Strayborn feel full and complete. I really can’t wait to discover where future books will take Cyrus, Aken-Shou and all their friends.
This is definitely Christian ya fantasy, and the author did a fine job of weaving faith into the lives of her characters, giving it a real and authentic feel. I recommend Strayborn to upper middle-grade readers and older who enjoy fantasy stories with vampire-like beings, faeries, dragons, elemental powers, and a good mystery to unravel.
Interview, Giveaway & More
Here’s the blurb from the book
Cyrus Sole hates life. She’s only half-human, with weak wrists, and not a day goes by when someone doesn’t say something mean about it—especially her step-mom. But when the forbidden power to manipulate metal awakens inside her, she finds herself on the run as the Argos Corps is sent to kill her…
Aken is a Scourgeblood, the last in a line of monsters. But all he really wants is to gain wings and be free. Until a new power suddenly awakens, changing the course of his life…
The Draev Guardian Academy is their only sanctuary. But training to become a Draev won’t be easy. Cyrus has to hide her human side, as she gets placed in Floor Harlow with the outcast students, and nightmares of her deceased mother keep returning.
With creepy Corpsed on the prowl, and whispers of Cyrus possibly being a reborn Hero, both she and Aken find themselves caught up in a web of secrets, racial tension, and an old legend with enemies that could spell their untimely demise…
E.E. Rawls is the product of a traveling family, who even lived in Italy for 6 years. She loves exploring the unknown, whether it be in a forest, inside a forgotten castle, or within the pages of a book.
She runs on coffee, cuddly cats and the beauty of nature to keep the story wheels of her mind running, as she writes tales that will both entertain and inspire others, giving them worlds they can explore and become lost within.