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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
The Ties That Bind, the second installment in Susan Markloff's young adult urban fantasy saga The Human-Born Era series, is preceded by book one, the award-winning The Rise of the Raidin. The series as a whole follows Jen Monroe, where in Raiden we are introduced to the 18-year-old hybrid, part human and part dragon. Jen is training with her Zaheri protectors when enemy fighters attack her school. Through her protectors, Jen learns of a longstanding war on Tilion, and she discovers that she is the only one capable of surviving an attack from the enemy leader, Cregorous. In a climactic confrontation between Jen and Cregorous, Jen experiences an out-of-body vision with a boy and drives Cregorous away. She then sets out to locate the other Human-Borns; however, she faces numerous obstacles, including PTSD from her traumatic encounter with Cregorous, cultural barriers, personality clashes, and a worldwide journey to find those destined to help her. The Human-Borns' abilities are witnessed by humans and the enemy they are fated to encounter lies in wait. The story reaches a gripping climax when Jen and her team fight to save those they care about while risking what they hold dear.
In the interests of full disclosure, I went into The Ties That Bind not having first read The Rise of the Raidin, which I immediately went back to read when the quality of author Susan Markloff's writing became apparent. The story is almost instantly engrossing and Jen is, without question, a character who feels authentic and like someone living and breathing. Markloff's strength in world-building, character development, and storytelling all shine, and the scenes come to life in a combination of creative prose and the absolutely gorgeous artwork that begins each chapter. While I appreciated the multi-cultural and multi-ethnic cast that hails from a diversity of backgrounds, as a reader who is also an ethnic minority, sometimes they ventured dangerously close to trope territory. That said, because the novel is a thrilling and emotional ride, getting swept up in the next scene of this hero's journey balances it out. Ultimately, The Ties That Bind is a must-read for lovers of unique fantasy fiction with a young adult slant.