What if someone you love gambled on her life?
Games are serious business on Salaria, and the stakes are high. When Kia's older sister, in a desperate bid to erase their family debt, loses the game and forfeits her freedom, Kia is determined to rescue her.
Disguised as a Salarian, Kia becomes Idaro in order to move freely in this dangerous new culture. When she arrives on Salaria, she learns it's a world where a few key players control the board, and the pawns are ready to revolt. Kia joins the conflict, risking everything to save her sister. As if she doesn't already have enough to handle, Agatha, the maddeningly calm and unpredictable Select who lives life both by-the-book and off-the-cuff shows up to help, along with handsome Norio, a strong-willed desert girl with her own agenda, and a group of Salarian teens earning their rite of passage in the treacherous desert game.
What can an interpreter and former thief possibly do in the midst of all this to keep the people she loves alive?
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On the desert planet of Salaria, games are taken very seriously. Losers in the Salarian Desert Game are required to spend several years as an indentured servant/slave in the crystal mines to pay off their debt. Kia is a translator for the Order of Universal Brotherhood (sort of like the religious police). She is determined to go to Salaria to rescue her sister. Just before she is ready to leave, she is ordered to accompany Agatha, as her translator, to Salaria. There has been a vision, so the mission is more important than anything. Kia has surgery to become Idaro, daughter of Philana, who left Salaria many years previously, in opposition to the way things were. Philana helps Kia to become Idaro. Salaria is a matriarchal planet. The men are a little better than slaves. As a rite of passage, all fifteen-year-old girls are sent into the desert on a survival mission. Kia/Idaro is included. The idea is that the girls will bond with others, and choose their triad. It's stronger than marriage, and it's for life. Women are not identified by family names, but by the triad of which they are a part. As soon as they arrive on Salaria, Kia and Agatha are separated. Kia realizes that Salaria is on the verge of civil war. Kia first has to convince Ryo, the matriarch of her triad, that she really is Idaro. Kia also knows that if she makes one wrong move, joining her sister in the mines will be the least of her problems. She joins the other "fifteens" in the desert, and almost does not return. The others run the gamut, from decent, reasonable people to those with their own agendas. Do Kia/Idaro and Agatha ever find each other? Does the planet erupt in civil war? Does Kia rescue her sister? Can Idaro do anything about the slavery on Salaria? This is an excellent novel. The author does a fine job at making the reader care about the characters, especially Kia. The story explores a number of subjects. Even though it is marketed as a Young Adult novel, adults will also enjoy it.