Onyx and Ivory Review: Hello, Generic Fantasy Kingdom!

May 4, 2018 by Aila J. | 3 stars, ARC Reviews, Books, Reviews

Onyx and Ivory Review: Hello, Generic Fantasy Kingdom!Onyx and Ivory by Mindee Arnett
Published by Balzer + Bray on May 15th 2018
Source: Publisher, Edelweiss
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic, Romance, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble
Add to Goodreads

They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king years ago. Now Kate lives as an outcast, clinging to the fringes of society as a member of the Relay, the imperial courier service. Only those most skilled in riding and bow hunting ride for the Relay; and only the fastest survive, for when dark falls, the nightdrakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: she is a wilder, born with magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals. But it’s this magic that she needs to keep hidden, as being a wilder is forbidden, punishable by death or exile. And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by nightdrakes in broad daylight—the only survivor her childhood friend, her first love, the boy she swore to forget, the boy who broke her heart.

The high king’s second son, Corwin Tormane, never asked to lead. Even as he waits for the uror—the once-in-a-generation ritual to decide which of the king’s children will succeed him—he knows it’s always been his brother who will assume the throne. And that’s fine by him. He’d rather spend his days away from the palace, away from the sight of his father, broken with sickness from the attempt on his life. But the peacekeeping tour Corwin is on has given him too much time to reflect upon the night he saved his father’s life—the night he condemned the would-be killer to death and lost the girl he loved. Which is why he takes it on himself to investigate rumors of unrest in one of the remote city-states, only for his caravan to be attacked—and for him to be saved by Kate.

With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin have to put the past behind them. The threat of drakes who attack in the daylight is only the beginning of a darker menace stirring in the kingdom—one whose origins have dire implications for Kate’s father’s attack upon the king and will thrust them into the middle of a brewing civil war in the kingdom of Rime.

The thing with the fantasy genre is that it’s hard to make a plot that has been written millions of times before unique. Onyx and Ivory has great writing, pretty swell characters, and a decent setting, but its major drawback was how predictable the plot was. It follows many traits of the numerous fantasies I’ve read before, and because of that I wasn’t quite excited for the twists. Here are bullet points of some of these familiar tropes:

  • Schism between different magic users. In this book “wilder” magic is seen as illegal and worthy of death, while “magist” magic is used for law-enforcing.
  • Main character has illegal type of magic. Kate has a power called sway, where she can push/pull ideas from animals’ minds. Other wilder magic include the elements.
  • Corrupt monarchy. The king cannot make decisions for himself, so the ministers and princes decide things. Of course, a couple of them are not as nice as they seem.
  • Hidden rebellion that comes into contact with main characters. The Rising are the wilder citizens who have been in-hiding, but want to come out and rebel so they and their children do not have to live in fear.
  • Second-son prince who has sympathy for wilder magic-users. This is Corwin, the other main character. And of course he’s put in contrast to the first-born son, who is power-hungry.
  • Forbidden romance between prince and girl. Kate’s father tried to kill the king years ago for some reason, and he was led to execution because of that. Although Kate and Corwin are first-loves, there is bad blood between them.
  • Rekindled, lost first love. Circumstances put Kate and Corwin together and they find that their chemistry did not dim. It follows a (thankfully) linear romance that is light in the book.
  • Mysterious monsters that threaten humanity. Drakes are dragon-like monsters that cannot fly and hunt for human flesh at night. However, new discoveries have seen drakes that can come out in the day, making them more dangerous to civilization than ever. What must these characters dooo?
  • Trials to choose the next king. The tradition is that the sons of the king have to complete trials of the uror to see who is the most worthy.

Am I done? Not really, but anymore would be going to spoiler territory. Hopefully that gave you a basic semblance of the plot. Since I started with bullet points, I guess I’ll end this review with them as well.


  • Despite the tropes, I am weak for fantasies and rebellions. So the points above were a plus.
  • Kate and Corwin were cool characters. We follow the book from their limited third-person POV’s. I’m not huge fans of them, but they’re good-hearted people who are honest and have healthy communication. They recognize their mistakes and grow from them and that’s what I’m about.
  • This may seem small but I’m happy to see nice fat representation. Usually in fantasies it’s the fat old man who is evil and corrupt. The fat innkeeper in Onyx and Ivory is jovial and helpful. I only wish we got to see more of him.
  • Oh, I love how Kate saved Corwin in the beginning and he recognized that a damsel helped him when he was in distress. Hells yeah, girl power.
  • Pretty sure Kate is hinted at being demisexual (hells yeah part 2).

Could Have Been Better

  • I guess the tropes are a minus as well? Nothing quite surprised me after the first third of the book, which had a lot of info-dumps to get readers caught up to the story.
  • World-building could have been expanded on. Hello, generic fantasy world.
  • Wish there were more POC’s. Other than a couple of darker-skinned characters, the majority of the cast was white.
  • I guess I’ve been spoiled with the recent books and movies that have powerful women in charge (*cough* thanks, Star Wars), because the patriarchy was quite evident in this setting. Yeahh, I’m kind of over that.

For a while I convinced myself that to be right I had to always follow the path set before me. But I’m learning that’s not true. There is a time to obey, yes, but also a time to make our own rules.


Onyx and Ivory was good certainly, but I expect fantasy lovers to become a bit bored with the cliches in the story. If you’re a fan of the tropes I listed above, then certainly pick this one up! If you’re looking for something that stands out from the rest, Onyx and Ivory does not have that… quite yet. I still enjoyed the story and characters, so we shall see how the sequel goes! I believe this is a duology. So, I laid all the tropes out on the table, readers. Now you get to decide whether this is worth picking up.

Content Warning: suicide, explicit violence, gore

Rating: 3.5 out of 5



The following two tabs change content below.
Aila is a young adult reader who loves to transport herself to new dimensions through reading. She's currently an undergraduate student at university in the US. Let's talk about our obsessions on Twitter @aila_1woaa!

Tags: , , ,

23 responses to “Onyx and Ivory Review: Hello, Generic Fantasy Kingdom!

  1. I think that’s the problem with young adult fantasy now, not only have we seen it all but authors use a similar template that has been a proven best seller in the past and it’s almost as though the genre as a whole refuses to move forward. Expect for breakout books such as Children of Blood and Bone. I’m not a massive fantasy reader so these type of reads still entertain me but ultimately leave me frustrated as well. I’m the same! Give me a rebellion and uprising against a tyrannical oppression and I can’t help myself. I’m glad you were still able to enjoy it though Aila despite being pretty bland. Brilliant review! ♥♥
    Kelly recently posted…Middle Grade Mini ReviewsMy Profile

  2. Just from the description, I think this book sounds generic, but I’m still really excited to read it. Hell yeah for #girlpower. We need more female characters who save the day and the men folk.

  3. I’m sorry to hear this Aila, but I’m glad you at least enjoyed this haha. To be fair, I’ve been picking up less and less fantasy unless I’ve heard REALLY stellar things about the book. This kind of screamed “meh” to me, and looks like I was right to not request it!
    Valerie recently posted…Review: CirceMy Profile

  4. Yeah I’ve been wondering about this one. The awesome cover calls to me, but fantasy these days… I just don’t know. This one does sound quite the generic fantasy. The wilder magic does sound kind of cool, but corrupt monarchy lol… yeah THAT’S been done about 8,000 times lol. Still I might pick this up if I see it cheap.
    Greg recently posted…Comic of the Week #17My Profile

  5. Vee @ Under The Mountain

    “he knows it’s always been his brother who will assume the throne” so I’m guessing the cliff hanger is that Corwin is picked? I’m terrible with YA books I always guess the plot. I could be wrong though! This is on my list this month if I can get to it.

    Vee @ Under The Mountain

  6. Oh, I’m so over generic fantasy! I think I’ve become really picky with the fantasy I read over the last year or so, but that means that what fantasy I do choose to read, I love. It’s amazing how many tropes you found in this one (but at the same time…I guess tropes make stories go round…somewhat?)
    Shanti recently posted…Review: My Lady JaneMy Profile

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge