Beth Bernobich's Passion Play is the coming of age tale of Ilse Zahlina, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. When he reveals his plans to marry Ilse off to a another merchant, she feels like just another item in his ledger. Matters are made worse when she finds that his last fiancée disappeared mysteriously, an occurrence most seem content to dismiss. Resolute not to end up a man's puppet like her mother, Ilse flees in the night, takes a new name, and seeks a life where she can forge her own identity.
Ilse's world seems to be pseudo-feudal, set in a sort of pre-fundamentalist Islamic Middle east. In the book she's described as having dark skin, which is accurately reflected on the cover. That shouldn't be such a big deal, but with all the white-washing going on in book covers it's a nice touch.
This book will appeal to fans of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart. While the plot details might be a bit more similar than I'd prefer, it's a great formula that really highlights not just the struggles of women (especially in earlier times), but also the need to be recognized for one's own deeds and virtues above innate traits.
Passion Play will appeal to adults and older YAs who like either adventure or romance. The supernatural elements are subtle, so readers thrown off by more dramatic fantasy elements won't be dismissive. A word of warning: there is a fairly unsettling rape scene, which might make the book inappropriate for younger YA readers. However, the scene is necessary and adds a believable touch to Ilse's steadfast determination.