I received a copy from Netgalley.
I was really looking forward to this one. Included in the Netgalley approval email was a really interesting note from the author about the characters and the inspiration for the novel. Admittedly I never got around to reading the kindle version I got from Netgalley and I bought the finished hardcover from Barnes and Nobel and read that one. For a 500 page book I read it in just under a week.
And found it really disappointing.
About five different storylines with lots of different characters, lots of different POVs. It’s fairly obvious at some point while all these people seem so different and random that at some point all their storylines are going to cross in one way or another. I was waiting for something to happen that caught my interest. The different storylines are interesting enough, the problem I had was it all felt so…bland. The characters were kind of flat and boring.
Princess Catherine is the only daughter of a cold and uncaring king only interested in furthering his own reach and power. Catherine is set to head off to another kingdom for an arranged marriage with a prince she’s never met. A union which is supposed to strengthen ties and trade between the two kingdoms. Her cruel violent brother and a selection of armed guards will be escorting her. Only problem is…Catherine is in love with one of her guards, Ambrose. Too bad that in this reader’s opinion it’s one of the worst cases of YA intsa-love I’ve seen in a while. They’ve barely spoken, yet they’re completely dippy for each other.
Catherine is actually one of the most interesting characters, she knows she’s a political pawn and she’s quite strong willed and intelligent, she’s determined to turn the situation around in a way that advantages her, makes her appealing to the people of the new country she’s going to, learning their ways, their culture. She doesn’t just want to be a pretty figurehead with no say in anything. Especially since in her own country women seem to rarely be of any importance. One thing I found really interesting was that the women in Catherine’s country have developed a way to talking to each other, a sort of sign language that allows them to communicate without the men knowing what they’re doing or saying to each other. Catherine’s story starts at an execution for a woman accused of the highest treason. She tries to send Catherine a warning message of some sort. The first hint that there’s something going on behind the scenes.
Tying into Ambrose’s story, the guard who is dippy over Catherine. He has his own family secrets and when he starts getting involved in Catherine’s, things go badly for him.
Another storyline involves a thirteen year old girl, Tash, who is part of a team that hunts demons and sells their smoke for profit. Forbidden of course, but highly lucrative. Tash’s biggest dream at the start of the novel is getting a new pair of really nice suede boots. Another storyline is Edyon, son a tradeswoman, a cocky teen and a thief, with a big secret of his own he doesn’t even know when his storyline starts. Along with March, a servant from a war ravaged country, who’s Prince is the brother of Catherine’s father. March gets himself involved in a revenge plot.
There’s nothing wrong with the writing, the world building is solid, the political plot quite intricate, and what this reader really wanted to know is how all these people come together. Some storylines were more interesting than others. A mix of good guys and detestable bad guys, hidden agendas, secrets, twisty invasions, illegitimate children of royals, forbidden magic, forbidden love…
Yet there was something missing from this one for me. I can’t say it was a bad book because on reflection it wasn’t really bad at all. I’ve been on a big fantasy kick lately and read some fantastic books, while a lot of them have overdone tropes and storylines as this one did, this particular novel just wasn’t as good as some of the other fantasy books I’ve read this year.
I wasn’t really interested in following up on this one, but after thinking about it…yeah, I do want to know what’s going to happen after that cliff hanger of an ending.
Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House UK Children’s for approving my request to view the title.