Saeli has always been different: she is autistic, in a world that doesn’t have a word for people like her.
She attends the exclusive institute of Aschamon, learning to harness her inner qi and preparing to join the battle between her people and their enemies, the Crimson Cowls. But despite her years of work, her teachers still refuse to elevate her to Silver Mantle status and dedicate her to their god’s service.
When notorious Crimson Cowl Rafel Kailar breaks into her school, it is either cruel irony…or fate…that Saeli is there to confront him.
But Rafel is nothing like the Cowls she’s been taught to hate. He draws her in with his charm and reveals his ultimate ambition: to overthrow the gods of Verre and end a hundred years of war. And he needs Saeli’s help.
As she is pulled deeper into Rafel’s schemes, Saeli fears she’ll be forced to choose whose side she’s truly on: her people, who have never understood her…or Rafel, who’d gladly turn her world upside-down to kill the gods.
Mariah Norris is a new author to me who I discovered via my recent membership of the Fantasy and Sci fi alliance – FSFalliance. I received a copy from the alliance and all opinions are my own and unbiased.
I really enjoyed this novel. It is book 1 in the Seven Strands. I liked the way that Hands Like Secrets portrayed different characters from the mainstream. It is an easy, captivating read which kept my attention throughout.
Saeli is autistic, her friend Fien is non binary and is referred to with the pronoun them.
The story takes place in a magical, academic setting. In the early chapters, we are quickly introduced to the magic system which uses Qi, martial arts, and fluid dance like movements. I loved this! There is a hint of romance too… with Saeli’s growing attraction to Rafel, suggesting the potential for an enemy’s to lovers trope romance…. but… is Rafel attracted to her? Or is he just using her? There is also a love triangle potential… but no more spoilers…
Saeli has been waiting for so long to become a silver mantle when her life turns upside down. She is thrust into extraordinary circumstances and begins to wonder who the Crimson Cowls are… Are they wicked, murderous foes as she has always been told? Or are they at the mercy of the gods?
She is attracted to Rafel, and these parts of the novel are written so well, as she tries to handle and control her growing attraction! Saeli has to make some difficult decisions – will she trust the Cowls, in particular Rafel? Or stick with her old friends, the mantles? Her old friend Yan and Fien’s characters are both written so well. They obviously care for her, making her uncertain what path to take. There are references to war in this novel too, making it a thoughtful read which I appreciate.
This is a fast paced, absorbing LGBTQ+ read which I can thoroughly recommend.
My rating 5 stars.
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