Chapter 16
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Setting the World Aflame

Twins fight for justice in Kaitlyn Sage Patterson’s latest YA fantasy

In The Exalted, the sequel to her debut YA fantasy novel, Kaitlyn Sage Patterson—a Maryville native and Memphis resident—continues the exciting story of the rebellious Vi and her long-lost twin, Bo, as they fight against oppression in the kingdom of Alskad. Readers would do well to begin with The Diminished, the first volume in the series, to learn as much as possible about the complex world Patterson has created in this series.

Photo: Hannah Patterson at Saffron Studio

This is a society in which most people are born as a set of twins. The few who are born alone are exalted, elevated to the status of royalty. By contrast, the “diminished,” who have lost a twin to death, are hated and feared. The temple elders teach that such a loss makes those who grieve it unstable and prone to sudden violence. But as Vi and Bo discover in the first book, the elders themselves provoke these episodes of instability by exposing the diminished to a mind-altering drug. They promote terror as a way of maintaining their hold on the empire’s citizens.

Believing her twin is dead, Vi grows up a ward of the temple, where she is abused and made to feel worthless. Bo, on the other hand, who believes he is a singleborn, grows up being groomed for the throne by his mother and his grandmother, the queen. When the truth is finally revealed—that Vi and Bo are actually twins—it turns both their worlds upside down.

Vi is determined to prevent temple forces from using their formidable power and vicious tactics to oppress or kill any more citizens. She joins the rebel alliance and makes plans to bring about reform by any means necessary. “We fight for change,” she says. “Not for ourselves, but for those who’ll come after us. We fight so that no one else ends up in chains. We fight for our brothers and sisters dosed by the temple and made to become rabid. We fight against the folks who’d call me diminished and turn grief into something to fear.”

Bo meanwhile works from inside the palace to use his status to break the temple’s stronghold on his kingdom. “Being singleborn didn’t make a person all knowing,” Bo learns. “Being diminished didn’t make a person violent.” Human nature, he realizes, isn’t nearly so reductive: “Violence, intelligence and power existed in every one of us—how we cultivated and controlled ourselves was up to each individual. We knew it, the temple knew it, and I’d made it my mission to show the world the truth when the time was right.”

Although Vi and Bo draw strength from their connection as twins and the love and support of their romantic partners, as well as a diverse and colorful crew of allies, the way ahead is perilous, and success is not assured. Hand-to-hand combat forces Vi to do things she can never forget. And Bo is drawn into palace intrigue and in-fighting between council members, who find it hard to believe his nightmarish tales of temple realities. To save his people, Bo must summon a strength he has never known.

Through sudden twists and surprising revelations, Patterson takes both Vi and Bo on painful journeys of self-discovery and growth. But there is strength in numbers, and this “diminished” girl and “singleborn” boy are no longer alone in the world—they have each other. With Bo’s help, Vi is determined to channel her anger and pain to “make myself into the spark that would set the world aflame.”