Synopsis: 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—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine—called Mare—the 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 become closer, Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. And 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.
1.5/5 (REVIEW CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS. I TRIED TO MARK THEM, BUT YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.)
Blehhhh. Takes guts to write a synopsis that long for a book this boring.
Well, things could be worse. I’m disappointed, yes, but not slump-worthily-so. I received this book in an Owlcrate, and while it sounded DIVINE and looks even prettier, it hadn’t really been on my radar beforehand. So, no, I didn’t like this. But who has the time to be surprised by me not liking books?
The premise of this fella is sick. At its most basic, this is YA fantasy with a girl-girl love story. Which is, like, amazing. Obviously. So yes, I wanted to like this. I’m giving it a little extra in its rating because it’s so important in that way. But the execution…well, I’ll explain.
The fantasy of this is just…poorly done. It’s that weird fantasy trope where everyone has an INSANE name. Here are the ones introduced in the first ten pages alone: Dennaleia, Alisendi, Thandilimon, Casmiel, Amarinthine, Aturnicus, Mirianna. Like, what? Oh, and Amarinthine likes horses, so her nickname is, drumroll please…Mare. So, like, the names are that bonkers, but the food is exactly the same as ours. Down to tomatoes and chocolate cream pie and berries with whipped cream. The only thing that’s really changed is the time-telling? They use “sunlength” and “moon,” WHICH IS JUST CONFUSING. I think a sunlength is an hour? And a moon might be two weeks, or a month? Give it up, you’re low fantasy. JUST ADMIT IT!
Now for the most important part: the characters. IMO, everyone is flat as hell. Oh, sorry, I should say the Six hells. (I truly crack myself up. All my people out there who have read this, you’re laughing up a storm right now, right? RIGHT?!) Anyway, instead of the audience being shown the two main girls’ traits, we’re just told what Dennaleia and Amarinthine are like. (I refuse to call them Denna and Mare.) It’s just, Here Is Dennaleia. She Is Bookish. And Here Is Amarinthine. She Is Brave. Oh my God it’s like Divergent factions. Or Hogwarts houses. Hahahaha. Second time I’ve cracked myself up in this review – ohmygod, in a PARAGRAPH – so I’m calling this a win already. Anyway (have I said that enough yet?), we’re told they’re like this but it almost never seems that way.
These characters also never feel bad about ANYTHING. They’re total sociopaths. When Thandilimon finds out his betrothed is cheating on him with his sister (too predictable to be a spoiler, yes?), he literally starts crying and asks if there’s anything wrong with him. It’s so sad. And Dennaleia is just like, OMG, whatever.
SPOILER: Even worse, later Dennaleia KILLS about a half-dozen people, all but one of whom are semi-innocent henchmen, and feels FINE. So does Amarinthine. Dennaleia even says, “Only I knew the truth – that all that death had been an act of love.” THAT DOESN’T EXCUSE IT AT ALL. So gross, right? Ugh. Rereading this I just shuddered. These characters are nasty. (And not in a fun way. In an unintentional and disturbing way.)
THIS PARAGRAPH COULD NOT SPOIL MORE Maybe the most annoying part was how PREDICTABLE this book was. On page 50 (out of about 400), I tried predicting the storyline, which I never do. I got it exactly right. My note says: We’ll be supposed to expect a member of the Directorate – maybe Hilara? – to be the traitor, but really it’ll be a “nice” person (and it’s totally going to be Kriantz). And all my pals out there who’ve read this, y’all know I got it pretty much spot on. Also, why wouldn’t Kriantz just blame the king’s death on Dennaleia? He knows about her magic. She’d be out of the picture, presumably, and he’d be off scot-free. Like, maybe I’m just being pretentious
as usual, but doesn’t that make more sense?
Now onto the magic. To ALL my YA authors out there writing magical fantasy: STOP MAKING YOUR MAGIC SO ILL-DEFINED. Even with a massive info-dump given to us through Dennaleia reading a book about magic, I have no idea what each power does. I know there are a bunch of types you can have, which are literally the Elements from the Vampire Academy series, plus something called Shadow that is never explained. LIL BABY SPOILER At one point, Dennaleia PULLS THE F*CKING STARS OUT OF THE SKY. Is that Shadow?! What the sh*t.
And now, as always, onto (audience chanting along with me) GENERAL! STUPIDITY! Yes, these are the dumb mistakes or overall irritating portions of the text that could be eradicated with a good scrub by an editor. I actually only have two for this, since I’ve mentioned a bunch earlier. One: since when does air put out fires? We all know that if a fire is bigger than, like, a candle, a burst of air isn’t going to do sh*t, right? Doesn’t it make it worse? And the second is a BIT OF A SPOILER: When Amarinthine sees a Zumordan woman for the first time, she describes her as a “small woman with dark gray-streaked hair whose features almost reminded me of Dennaleia’s.” You know, how people from the same country all look the same? Bet that won’t hold any significance later on!
Bottom line: despite all of that, plus how boring and slow this was, the topic and representation are really important. So I’m giving it an extra half star. But god, I’m glad I was able to scrub most of this from my memory between when I read it and editing this review to post here.