Friday, January 20, 2023

Review: Riven by Mindee Arnett


Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: January 10, 2023
Pages: 447

From acclaimed fantasy author Mindee Arnett comes an epic, adventurous story of a young mercenary magic-user trying to escape the oppressive island of Rivenand a young noblewoman trying to change it forever.

Mars Darksvane wants out. Out from under the thumb of Una, the crime boss who pulled him off the streets as a child and trained him as an assassin; out from the island country of Riven, where magic, in the form of a dangerous material called Ice, allows the rich to live in luxury and keeps the poor in thrall.

Mars is a secret adept—a person born with the ability to channel the magic that flows beneath Riven—and while his power gives him abilities useful to an assassin, it also makes him a target. And when his last mission ends in tragedy, Mars finally decides it's time to escape to the mainland. No magic, no history, a new life on his own.

But Una has other ideas. If Mars wants his freedom, he's going to have to perform a final job: protecting Fura Torvald—the heiress of the rich and powerful Torvald kith, and the daughter of the last man Mars was sent to kill—and stealing from her a mysterious object known only as the Primer.

Mars has no interest in Fura or whatever the Primer is, nor in Riven's corrupt and oppressive politics; he just wants to do his job and get out. But as Mars comes to know more about Fura, the Primer, and the true nature of the power in Riven, he realizes that he will soon have to take a side in a fight he has avoided his entire life.

Which side, however, he does not yet know.

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

I have spent a week and a half trying to put my feelings about this book into words and coming up empty. There was just so much intrigue crammed into this book that trying to sort it out for specific feelings is like searching for a needle in a haystack, and the haystack is my brain that I swear delights in leaving me feeling inadequate. 

The beginning had me feeling quite intrigued, although I thought the story was going to go a different way based on it. I was expecting a stronger romantic storyline for one thing, and a different cast of characters for another, and I didn't get either of those things. 

There were a lot of aspects of life in Riven that made me quite angry. Poor people being used and taken advantage of while the rich reap all the benefits (so pretty standard fare for a dystopian novel). But the story is told from the perspective of someone in neither of those two groups, who is all too aware that one wrong move or stroke of bad luck would land him worse off than the poor. 

This is a world where nobody really trusts anybody, at least they shouldn't because you never know who is going to stab you in the back next. Fura is betrayed by some of the people she thought were closest to her after all. 

The relationship between Mars and Fura was interesting and full of fun little quips. There's also definitely potential for it to grow into a romance, but it was not that in this story, and I'm glad it wasn't. I feel like a lot of books with plots similar to this lean heavily on a romantic aspect to make us root for the characters, but I had no problem cheering for their success without their romantic relationship being on the line. 

Overall I give this book 4.4 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

Mindee Arnett is the author of two forthcoming young adult series. The first book in her contemporary fantasy series, The Nightmare Affair is forthcoming March 2013 from Tor Teen (Macmillan) while her YA sci-fi thriller, Finding Eden (tentative title) will debut Winter 2014 from Balzer+Bray (HarperCollins). She lives on a horse farm in Ohio with her husband, two kids, a couple of dogs, and an inappropriate number of cats. She’s addicted to jumping horses and telling tales of magic, the macabre, and outer space.

Her short stories have appeared in various magazines, including Happy, and she has received an honorable mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2008. She has a Master of Arts in English literature with an emphasis in Creative Writing. She is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary and Media. She also blogs and tweets. Find her online at

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