The Contest, by K.E. Ganshert (2021)
Anyone who’s ever asked why bad things happen to innocent people will relate to orphaned teenaged Briar Bishop. While the rich in the kingdom get richer, she’s raising her younger brother in the worst of the slums.
When she receives a mysterious invitation to a contest promising to grant the winner’s deepest wish, she ignores it—until desperation leaves her no choice.
The thing is, she gave up wishing long ago. Then gave up believing in the Wish Keeper (her world’s most powerful magic figure).
The contest will pit her against 11 others, all equally determined. One of them is High Prince Leopold Davenbrook. Leo’s public persona is a daredevil thrill-seeker, but Briar remembers him as a grieving 8-year-old watching the execution of Briar’s mother—for the murder of his.
The characters and their interconnections are richly developed, as are the events of the contest and its settings. The world itself has more technology than I often find in a fantasy novel. They have underground transport and personal communication devices, antibiotics (for the rich), and a form of television. Magic, while still a part of the world, is forbidden due to a past disaster.
One thing that might save you the confusion I had: some chapter titles include a date. That date only applies to that past timeline. Anything without a date at the beginning is the story’s present.
Iris screamed—louder this time, as if they all knew the answer but were withholding it from her and if she just raised her voce to the right decibel, they might finally explain. [Kindle page 142]
Good would win. Good had to win. And if good wasn’t winning, then it wasn’t the end. [Briar’s papa’s philosophy. Kindle pages 362-363]
Author K.E. Ganshert describers herself as “an award-winning author torn between two genres.” She writes YA fantasy and contemporary inspirational fiction. For more about the author and her work, visit katieganshert.com.
[Review copy from my personal library.]