Book Review: Dissident by @Author_NikkiMc

Dissident by Nikki McCormack – 4 stars

Ascard power can strengthen, heal and create. It also has great potential to destroy, enough to topple entire governments. Indigo’s country places strict limitations on the use of ascard so she must channel her talents into the healing arts or risk severe punishment. An orphan from a disgraced family, trapped by her father’s treason, Indigo struggles to reclaim her place in a society that has driven her into an abusive engagement.

Then a mysterious stranger from a neighboring country contacts her using ascard. He needs help escaping his prison so he can bring an end to his emperor’s oppressive rule or die trying. His unshakable devotion to his cause and the passion hidden behind his cool arrogance move her to help him at the risk of being branded a traitor herself.

When the politics of society bring them together a second time, Indigo decides to use her growing powers to help him fight his war. If only she dared fight for her own future with such passion. Perhaps she can find the courage to do so by helping the man she has fallen for win his revolution. She might have exactly the power he needs to succeed.

It took me a few days to sort out my opinion of this book, a sure sign it made me think. The characters are intriguing and well-developed, the plot is interesting, the action is consistent in its application, and the story offered all-around satisfaction. It offers a good start, middle, and end with a clear path to the next book.

Indigo’s relationship with Jayce confused me somewhat, mostly because the social pressures for her to stay with him seemed artificial. Part of the problem came from my not quite grasping her social status situation, which felt more complex than the explanations suggested. Her minor title seems to be derived purely from her engagement to Jayce, and the only thing that allows her to receive training as a healer. Perhaps I’m ascribing my own, modern understanding of “engagement” to the situation when I say this makes no sense, but I was offered no other explanation. Beyond that, I’m at a loss to understand why any ruler, regardless of superstitions or cultural taboos, would allow the waste of magical talent by restricting its training to only those who are titled.

Despite that rather minor setting-related quibble, I enjoyed the story a great deal. The ascard take on magic works, its limitations are reasonable and satisfying, and I was able to follow and accept the arc of Indigo’s power growth. Her character growth is well done, and she’s strong enough to carry the mantle of protagonist with ease.

I recommend this story for anyone who enjoys high fantasy.

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