Nav’Aria: The Marked Heir by KJ Backer
Orphan. Outsider. Freak.
Labels and questions swirl in Darion’s troubled mind. Why did his birth parents abandon him? Why is he haunted by visions of mythical beasts, a captive, and her torturer? And why is his birthmark glowing?
Discovering his true-identity may cost Darion everything, as he is suddenly confronted with a war-ravaged Realm and the answers he has always sought. Rav’Arians wreak havoc at the command of a sadistic usurper who led a grisly coup against the Marked Royals. Unicorn, Centaur, Nymph, and man have joined forces to face the oncoming threat of evil, yet their forces are slipping, and hope seems lost.
Three generations interwoven throughout Nav’Arian history will reach as far as rural Oregon, to see the Kingdom unified once more.
The only question is, will the return of the Marked Heir help or hinder in the fight for Nav’Aria?
A prince finally returns home. A king wages war against an evil foe. And daring escapes and attacks occur. Nav’Aria: The Marked Heir was a page turning, heart pounding, wild adventure from start to finish, and I’m already OBSESSED with this series! I’ve followed KJ Backer on social media for a while, and this book has been at the top of my TBR for a while. I’m so glad I started it, but since book two hasn’t come out yet, I’m left wishing for more!
Darion feels like an outsider. He’s an orphan, he’s bullied in school, and he has an odd birth mark on the ring finger of his right hand. While his adoptive parents love him, Darion still feels that something isn’t right. When he begins to have dreams of a woman locked in a cell, the truth of Darion’s heritage comes out, and he must hurry to embrace his fate before it’s too late.
Right off the bat readers are presented with the outsider/orphan hero. There’s nothing special about Darion - yet - while there are countless clues hinting that he’ll to become something more. I loved how realistically Darion was written for a high schooler - and working as a pizza delivery boy too! He’s easy to understand and sympathize with, and I was immediately rooting for him to succeed at everything he attempted.
When Darion’s birthright came to light, I loved how everyone in his life who cared for him was in on the truth. Obviously his adoptive parents, Rick and Carol, knew who Darion truly was, but I was surprised that Tony from the pizza place played a big role too. Together, the three of them made up Darion’s Protectors, and it was so nice to have them tell the whole back story of how they left Nav’Aria. Most times books with a backstory like this only reveal small pieces at a time as the main character unravels what happened, but because there’s so much more conflict for Darion to face, readers quickly learn about the coup on the royal family, the atrocities Narco has been inflicting, and the current state of the kingdom. Although all that information is provided up front, there are still questions about Narco and his source of power that none of the characters have answers to.
There was so much at play in Nav’Aria that it’s almost hard to choose what to discuss! There were themes of family and belonging between Darion and his Protectors as well as his true parents. It was so sweet that Carol and Rick had come to care so deeply for Darion that they still considered him their son even after reuniting him with his birth father. And then there was Darion meeting his birth parents for the first time and the questions of living up to parental expectations - which were quite high considering Darion’s birth parents were the King and Queen of Nav’Aria, as well as skilled warriors.
There was also a wonderful focus on gender and races - with a fantasy twist of course! Because there are more than just humans living in Nav’Aria, the different species interact in different ways. Not so much an “us versus them” scenario, but it was great how KJ Backer goes into detail about the roles each species fill and how they all contribute to Nav’Arian society. The role of female warriors comes up a few times, and I love how KJ Backer emphasizes the fact that females can be just as fierce and skilled as the male warriors in this story.
Several different points of view are explored throughout the novel, and KJ Backer does a wonderful job giving each individual their own voice. From Darion all the way to the majestic unicorn warriors, they are all well developed and distinct. And she even goes into Narco’s perspective which was a treat (even though he’s horrible) because we get to see how twisted his mind is, and it doesn’t give away too much of his motives or secrets that it spoils the plot for the books to come.
I enjoyed the beginning of this series so much, and I’m already dying for more. Thankfully book two will be coming out this year, and there will be a third to follow!
For more on KJ Backer and her Nav’Aria series, check out her website.