The Eyes of Tamburah by Maria V. Snyder
Archives of the Invisible Sword, book 1. Harlequin, 2019.
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended. Fans of exotic worlds and brave heroines will love The Eyes of Tamburah and long for the next in the series. Shyla is an outcast with yellow hair, cursed for being sun-kissed by the Sun Goddess. Brought up by monks she has left the monastery and now lives in the underground city of Zirdai, trying to make a living as a researcher who finds the location of lost relics for treasure hunters and the archaeologists. She keeps her head down and is shunned by everyone except Banqui, the Water Prince's archaeologist. When he begs her to help him find the legendary Eyes of Tamburah, which can give great power to the one who wields them, she finds herself embroiled in chaos. Banqui is imprisoned and Shyla is blamed for the theft of the jewels. With the Water Prince and the Heliacal Priestess determined to have the Eyes of Tamburah, Shyla tries to find them, with soldiers and deacons in hot pursuit.
Snyder has written a fast moving adventure story set in a believable world, where it is so hot that everyone must live underground and where water is really valuable. The reader is taken from level to level as Shyla searches for the Eyes and gains an insight into the class system that exists, with those who can pay for it given access to water and food, and a large group of people who live apart stealing food and water. The opulence of the Water Prince's level contrasts with that of the ones who live away from society, and the level where prisoners are kept and tortured is grim indeed.
Shyla's role as a researcher is pivotal to the story. She is intelligent and curious and determined to do the right thing, even when it is most dangerous to herself. She won't leave Banqui to die or those living on the edge of society to be tortured. Instead she is prepared to make huge sacrifices for what she believes in.
Add a slow burning romance, a secret society, plenty of action and suspense, twists and turns and you have a wonderful story that will make the reader want to pick up other books by this talented author, like The glass trilogy.