Rift by Andrea Cremer

Publication Date: August 7th, 2012
Philomel Books
Format: Hardcover, 430 pages
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars


Ember Morrow was promised to the knights of Conatus at birth, her life traded for her mother’s. So when the horsemen come for her, soon after her sixteenth birthday, Ember’s not surprised. What does surprise her, though, is the magic the knights wield, the demons they hunt, and the feelings she has for Barrow Hess, the powerful man she serves.

When the knights realize that one among them is dabbling in dark magic, danger heightens and Ember must choose whether to follow the path to darkness or to escape the order and pledge her life to destroying her fellow knights.

With action, adventure, magic, and tantalizing sensuality, the breathtaking prequel to the Nightshade series delves into the history of Bosque Mar and the origin of the rift between the Keepers and the Searchers.
I’ve about given up on Nightshade series after reading the first book. When Bloodrose finally came out, and after the numerous cries of horror from some of my Goodreads friends, I’m afraid I’ve lost all faith in the series. Even so, I’ve been known to buy books with the asinine intention of completing a series so it looks pretty on the shelves rather than ACTUALLY reading them. So needless to say, I have the trilogy sitting happily, albeit, ignored, on my bookshelf. When Rift showed up on my radar, it was nothing but a blip. I couldn’t make myself fake a smidgeon of enthusiasm over its pending release.

And so here I am, eating another serving of finger-licking crows.

Because it has been ages since I’ve read Nightshade, and have not been aware of what happened in the proceeding books, I really can’t remember who Ember Morrow was (or if she was even mentioned). It was a double-edged sword; it was good and bad for the same reason that I can consider Rift as its own entity rather than something that was tied to the world of Nightshade. But because I didn’t know the extent of its relevance to the former, I felt a bit lost. My reading experience can be compared to that of trying to remember a fleeting memory that I couldn’t quite grasp.  And though the story is perfect on its own, I still felt like I was missing something. The more I read, however, the more I realized, I’m only confused because I can’t separate the two stories. I was so obsessed with trying to remember Ember that I’ve missed out on the main focus of this book, which is how the divide between the Keepers and Seekers came to be [insert face palm here]. 

If we have to compare Rift and Nightshade, I say Rift has a much more evolved heroine. Ember was steadfast in her disposition far more than Calla ever was. The girl knew what she wanted and went for it. Her fierce eagerness to learn so that she may be worthy of her calling rivaled her abhorrence to following Barrow around like a puppy in need to be let out for a bathroom break. And in any case, I think it’s not fair to compare the two characters not only because it’s virtually impossible to do so but consider the wide expanse of generation gap between the two. They grew up on two different eras. 

As much as the synopsis alluded to a forbidden romance between Barrow and Ember (Knights of Conatus are supposedly celibate), I admire Ms. Cremer for keeping it subtle. The story does not hinge on the outcome of their relationship but more based upon recognition of the lines between the mentor and the student. Because of Ember’s innate stubbornness, reading her interact, fight, argue with Barrow was a delight. But if I have to pin-point the exact moment indicative of how awkward and realistic their romance was, it was when they were sparring. I’ve never read such an interaction heaped with amorous tension.

The fantastical world that Andrea created was as good as any other fantasy novels I’ve ever read. She could run with the best of them…well, okay, I’ve not read much so my experience may be that of a novice. Regardless, I think she did a tremendous job with every element required for an authentic fantasy work. My only complaint was the absence of a map.

There wasn’t a shortage of mythical creatures necessary for building a ‘realistic’ fantasy world also. There were warlocks, magicians, wizards, goblins, revenants, kelpies, striga (night flyers who ate people), horses that chose their riders, weapons forged by fire and visions, a contraption formed by magic that can open portals to far away places, and knights – charismatic, strong knights!

VERDICT: The main problem I have with this book is actually not the book’s fault but mine. Since I quit on the Nightshade series, I am still confuse with the whole Keepers and Seekers business. So much so that I may or may not be thinking about picking up Wolfsbane asap. Over all, Andrea Cremer certainly flexed her writing muscles in Rift and I can’t wait to read more books from this series. The perfect blend of historical fantasy and subtle romance made for a rare, addictive read in the genre.