Published by Balzer + Bray on November 22nd 2016
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Edelweiss
Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.
Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine (called Mare), sister of her betrothed.
When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, each discovers there’s more to the other than she thought. Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. Soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.
But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.
The disappointment stings a bit here, let’s be real. Luckily, Holly prepared me before I went in, which I think was good. I had actually hoped she’d be wrong (after all, we differed wildly in our thoughts on Three Dark Crowns and several other fall books!), but alas, I am with her on this one.
I mean, look, it wasn’t all bad or anything, so that’s good? Let’s start out with the good, because I like to look at the positives. In books anyway.
- I really did ship the relationship between Mare and Denna! I was rooting for them, but I think that is mostly because I liked Mare. Though sadly I didn’t feel… anything really for Denna, but I wanted Mare to be happy.
- The society was pretty cool about women in general. There were women in positions of leadership and in the army, and pretty much everywhere. I also liked that the idea of a f/f relationship in itself wasn’t some kind of taboo, it was only made so because of other circumstances, not because it was two women.
- I want to hang the cover up as art in my room. Beyond gorgeous, yes? ???
- The world and plot felt so… generic fantasy, I guess. Secret magic powers, forced to marry a prince, royals fighting and scheming, I have seen it all before so many times. I didn’t really feel anything new with this one. Denna had her “family duty”, but oh wait, she has secret powers, but oops, she has to hide them… I feel like I had heard it before, basically.
- The characters were also underwhelming overall. Like I said above, I did like Mare. But she was kind of it. A few side characters held my interest, but mostly, I was apathetic. The names were also quite unwieldy, and I resorted to calling one guy “Lord Blahblah” for most of the book (meaning every part of the book he appeared in, you see).
- I was basically able to predict everything that happened before I read it. For example (and this happens early on, but I still blurred out the name cause I am nice like that):
This was basically me the whole book. Even the end, I could see coming from a mile away, and I was kind of bummed and not as excited to read because of that.
- The dialogue kind of faltered a bit between super old-timey sounding to way too modern. It was like the characters couldn’t decide if they were from 1524 or 2012, and I didn’t know either.
- There were some pretty big instances of telling instead of showing. I am not usually even very critical of this, but it struck me enough to mention. In one instance, Denna was having a conversation with another character, and then randomly spurts out a bunch of feelings that I had no idea even existed, because there was no lead up to them, no sense at all that she’d been thinking anything along these lines. She just randomly tells us, like it’s now gospel because she said it out loud. It threw me off, and is probably one of the reasons I felt disconnected with the characters in general.
- This one is spoilery so… good luck deciding if you want to click that tag 😉 View Spoiler »Denna suddenly decides she is in love with Mare- even though she had not had ANY visible feelings toward her until the moment she decided she was in love with her. It wasn’t even insta-love, since they’d known each other for quite some time, it was just… unusual and not quite realistic. « Hide Spoiler
Bottom Line: In theory, great. In execution… less so. I still enjoyed the romance, and I am glad to have read it, because yes please to more LGBT+ in fantasy.