Excerpt from Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by Jordan Ifueko

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko X
Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2020, 368 pages

    Aug 2021, 400 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag
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They chattered in dialects from all twelve realms of the Arit empire. Some faces were warm and dark, like mine and The Lady's. Others were pale as goat's milk with eyes like water, or russet and smelling of cardamom, or golden with hair that flowed like ink. The tutors plied me with riddles, shoving diagrams into my hands.

Can she solve it? Try a different one. She'll have to do better than that.

I didn't know what they were looking for. I only knew that once they found it, I would get to see The Lady again.

This will be the day, the tutors gushed when I excelled at my lessons. The Lady will be so pleased. Then the palisade gates of Bhekina House opened, and my mother glided inside, detached as a star. Her shoulders glowed like embers. Wax-dyed cloth clung to her torso like a second skin, patterns zigzagging in red, gold, and black. She held me to her breast, a feeling so lovely I wept as she sang: Me, mine, she's me and she is mine.

The Lady never spoke when I demonstrated my skills. Sometimes she nodded as if to say, Yes, perhaps. But in the end, she always shook her head.

No. Not enough.

I recited poems in eight different languages, hurled darts into miniscule targets, solved giant logic puzzles on the floor. But each time it was no, no, and no again. Then she vanished in that haze of heady perfume.

At age five I had begun to sleepwalk, padding barefoot through the smooth plaster halls of our manor. I would peer in each room, walking and whimpering for my mother until a servant carried me back to bed.

They were always careful never to touch my skin.

"I cannot find your mother," the alagbato told me the night of my

attempted escape. "But I can show you a memory. Not in my head." He dodged my attempt to seize his face. "I never store secrets on my person." The Lady had forbidden people from touching me for a reason. I could steal the story of almost anything: a comb, a spear, a person. I touched something and knew where it had been a moment before. I saw with their eyes, if they had eyes; sighed with their lungs; felt what their hearts had suffered. If I held on long enough, I could see a person's memories for

months, even years.

Only The Lady was immune to my gift. I knew every story in Bhekina House, except hers.

"You will have to take my memory from the place where it happened," said the alagbato, setting me lightly in the tall grass. "Come. It is not far."

He offered a bony hand, but I hesitated. "You're a stranger," I said. "Are you sure?" he asked, and I felt the odd sensation of peering into

a mirror. He smiled, lips pursed like a meerkat's. "If it makes you feel any better, my name is Melu. And thanks to that woman, I am not an alagbato." His smile soured into a grimace. "Not anymore."

Fear rose in my belly like smoke from a coal pit, but I silenced my worries. Do you want to find The Lady or not?

I picked up my sack, from which most of the mangoes had fallen, and took Melu's hand. Though gentle, his grip felt hard around mine, as though his muscles were made of bronze. An emerald-studded cuff glinted on his forearm, and when I grazed the cuff by accident, it seared me.

"Careful," he murmured.

We walked to a clearing hedged in acacia trees. Herons flapped above a vast, still pool. The air hung with lilies and violets, and the brush rustled and shhhed in a wordless lullaby.

"Is this where you live?" I asked in awe.

"In a manner of speaking," he said. "It was beautiful for the first few thousand days. After that, it grew tedious." I blinked up at him in confusion, but he did not explain. He only pointed to the soft red earth. "The story is here."

Cautiously, I pressed my ear to the ground. I'd never tried to take the memory of any place larger than my bedroom. A familiar heat flushed my

Excerpted from Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko. Copyright © 2020 by Jordan Ifueko. Excerpted by permission of Amulet Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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