Rebecca Zahabi is a mixed heritage writer (British, French and Iranian) she lives in the Uk now and has written in a few genres. Rebecca hopes to write novels that can make a difference. Her current series Talens of the Edge blends magic and cultural heritage. Her short stories have been in the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and in Podcastle. Her debut novel Collarbound has made the top 10 Sunday Times best seller list.
Collarbound centres around the Nest, a castle sitting on a cliff next to the Edge. Over the edge is a chasm called the Shadowpass that separates the two countries. Living on the Duskdweller side of the Edge are a Human race of mages, Human ungifted, and a non-Human race called the Kher. The High mages rule the land from the Nest, training their apprentices and protecting their subjects. The Nest is full of its own politics as the mages control areas of the city and gather followers. On the other side of the Shadowpass there is rebellion stirring and throughout the book, the tension and danger rise. Isha is an apprentice brought to the nest by a high mage, here she is to be an apprentice and try to piece together her missing past. Tatters is a strange and mysterious mage working on the fringes of the Nest and is following his own agenda, but now he wants to find out everything he can about Isha. Their past and future must be connected.
Please note there may be some small spoilers in the section below, I try to keep them spoiler free so you can decide if you want to buy the book but some small details, not int he descriptions are ahead.
I found this book as I signed up for the ARC for the sequel The Hawkling, not realising at the time it was a sequel. As I needed to review the Hawkling I quickly jumped onto Amazon and purchased Collarbound. When I received this book I struggled to put it down. Rebecca Zahabi has crafted a detailed world with engaging characters. The book starts with not much information on the main characters and then throughout the book, the pieces of the puzzle are revealed. I did find some of the ideas hard to grasp at first but I suppose that is the difference between layering the book with a backstory or letting the reader figure it out on their own. It is something I did enjoy while going on this journey with Isha and Tatters. Rebecca does an amazing job of building a deep and very family-orientated culture with the Kher, a downtrodden race of beings that are not far off slaves to the mages of the Nest. There are strong tones of intolerance against these people that make you root for them. I have read many fantasy novels and seen many magic systems but Zahabis system seemed original and I really enjoyed learning it with Isha and seeing how the mages would enter each other’s minds and use imagery as a powerful tool. I loved the terms like Mindbrawling and Mindrambling, they were very emotive and carried the action and helped with the world-building. The thought that the magical fighting takes place in their minds and there isn’t much physical fighting is something new to me and it was part of what I really liked about this book.
One of the things I think this book is missing however is a map, it’s something readers of fantasy have come to expect and this book would definitely be the better for it. Sometimes it’s hard to visualise the Edge, Nest, and Shadowpass. It would be nice to see this in the books.
Throughout the book, I found I really started to care for Isha and Tatters and at times I was banging my head on the table wanting them to understand each other more. By the end of the book, I was glad to know I already had the next in the series and couldn’t wait to continue the journey. If you are a fan of fantasy stories that deal with mystery, action, and character development you will enjoy this book.