Here's the summary from Goodreads: Chronicling the rise of the Keepers, this is the stunning prequel to Andrea Cremer's internationally bestselling Nightshade trilogy! Sixteen-year-old Ember Morrow is promised to a group called Conatus after one of their healers saves her mother's life. Once she arrives, Ember finds joy in wielding swords, learning magic, and fighting the encroaching darkness loose in the world. She also finds herself falling in love with her mentor, the dashing, brooding, and powerful Barrow Hess. When the knights realize Eira, one of their leaders, is dabbling in dark magic, Ember and Barrow must choose whether to follow Eira into the nether realm or to pledge their lives to destroying her and her kind.
I held Andrea Cremer to pretty high standards with this book because of how well written I thought the Nightshade books were. Probably unfair, but...it happens.
What I liked: 1) Ember. True to form, Ms. Cremer created another strong female MC who I definitely wanted to root for. Though Ember's strength can almost make you believe she doesn't need anyone to root for her. This girl can take care of herself. She's taught herself seemingly her whole life to be strong and independent, knowing that her life has been pledged to Conatus and she doesn't know what that life will entail. But it's refreshing to watch her accept things that she doesn't know or understand. She's comfortable when being a warrior, but less so when she has other emotions, like falling in love. Completely likeable and believeable, Ember is an MC everyone can get behind. 2) Barrow. How can you not fall for this guy? Talk about the epitome of the strong, silent type. His demeanor prevents you from getting to know him as well as I would have liked, but it works for him. You start to get the sense that until Ember came along, Barrow's life was The Guard and his loyalty to Conatus. Like I said, it works for him. He reminded me a little of Four, from Divergent. Biggest question: How old is this guy? Since this book is set in the past, their language and speech patterns are (different, but match the time period very well) and it's harder to distinguish an age. 3) Action. There is a lot of action going on in this book, and that moves the story forward. You can't help but be swept up in those scenes.
What I Didn't Like: 1) The parts without Ember or Barrow. Wow. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually had to push myself to get through the parts without Barrow and Ember. It was like, those scenes just hadn't been as well thought out or developed. It was a little disappointing. 2) The other thing I didn't like as well was that there was a lack of a defined setting. Because of the ambiguity of it, I wasn't able to sink down as deep into it as I like to. Usually, I'm so into a story that pulling myself out of it is almost physical. I have to blink and readjust my eyes to my real surroundings, realizing that I am not (for example) in the Pit of Dauntless Headquarters with Tris and Four (okay, I just re-read Divergent, so it's fresh). This wasn't the case in Rift, and I was a little disappointed in that.
Overall Thoughts: Ember and Barrow have jetted near the top of my favorite MCs. Their chemistry is amazing, and the character development was just great. They are what keep Rift interesting and moving forward. Additionally, the action that is presented is different that other books, and really help get you into the story. It could have used some more development on the other parts of the story, the ones that were only indirectly related to Ember and Barrow. Those parts without these characters got to be a little tedious. Likewise, the setting could have used some more detail. But Andrea Cremer knows how to weave a story, and she's certainly done a number with this one. Fans of the Nightshade series won't be disappointed, but for me it was curiosity about this series is going to answer questions from the Nightshade series. Miz Cremer's creative imagination provides an interesting story, but I'm hoping for more depth in Rise.
My Rating: 4 shots