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Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite
Najee: A Glimmer of Hope by Sarah Y. Westmoreland is the first entry in the Najee Series and a compelling blend of science fiction and fantasy with a colorful setting and characters readers will enjoy. Many people, like fourteen-year-old Akinia, have never known peace in the Empire. They were born into a world riddled by war, with no hope of respite. Life is difficult for everyone as the empire faces threats from powerful enemies. But there are rumors of the child of the prophecy, the one who will restore the long-forgotten years of peace, those years that only old people like Ko-Pau Klie still remember. So, when Akinia is selected to fight alongside the Imperial army as a Najee Warrior, she feels hopeless as she faces the crude reality of war, but she is determined to train harder and to protect her people. Little does she know that she is at the heart of a prophecy in which millions of people through the generations have placed their hope. Does she have what it takes to bring about the peace everyone desires?
I enjoy stories with strong plot points and Najee: A Glimmer of Hope has a wonderful plot, but what caught my attention most was the skillful handling of character. Akinia is so well developed and readers will enjoy her growth as the story progresses. At the beginning of the story, she is hesitant and uncertain and this makes her so human and likeable. The long hours of her training and the connection she develops with the Master, Ko-Pau Klie, allow her to build her confidence and to believe there could be a future for her people. The grit is strong, the moments of emotion are exacting, and the entire story is filled with a realism that does not completely exclude the eeriness that adds to the magic of the tale. It is fast-paced and filled with intense action.
The conflict is strong, involving the life of an empire, and the author uses it to propel the plot towards a powerful climax. Sarah Y. Westmoreland has a voice that is smooth and captivating, a great sense of setting which allows readers to follow the characters through the war-torn regions of the empire, and a great gift for plot structure. This is a book for fantasy buffs, a tale that is as transporting as it is delightful. This author was able to hold my attention from the first page until the last exhilarating page. Looking forward to the next entry in this series.