Author: KayLynn Flanders
Published: July 21, 2020
Publisher: Delacorte Press
For fans of Sorcery of Thorns and Furyborn comes a thrilling new fantasy about a kingdom ravaged by war, and the princess who might be the key to saving not only those closest to her, but the kingdom itself, if she reveals the very secret that could destroy her.
The kingdom of Hálendi is in trouble. It’s losing the war at its borders, and rumors of a new, deadlier threat on the horizon have surfaced. Princess Jennesara knows her skills on the battlefield would make her an asset and wants to help, but her father has other plans.
As the second-born heir to the throne, Jenna lacks the firstborn’s–her brother’s–magical abilities, so the king promises her hand in marriage to the prince of neighboring Turia in exchange for resources Hálendi needs. Jenna must leave behind everything she has ever known if she is to give her people a chance at peace.
Only, on the journey to reach her betrothed and new home, the royal caravan is ambushed, and Jenna realizes the rumors were wrong–the new threat is worse than anyone imagined. Now Jenna must decide if revealing a dangerous secret is worth the cost before it’s too late–for her and for her entire kingdom.
When I was approved for this ARC, I let out a squeal of excitement. I’d heard about this book and it looked oh so interesting and I was incredibly excited to read it! After reading a few early reviews, it looked like most popular YA novels: people either loved it or hated it. 5 stars of 1 star was what I largely saw. I get it, it’s a new release that has a lot of promise and the cover is pretty, what’s not to like here.
At first glance, it’s a little bit tropetastic: Girl has magic, but it’s a secret. She’s a princess in a kingdom that reviles magic and it’s only reserved for the ruling family. Girl gets betrothed against her will to the prince of a neighboring kingdom, she loves wearing pants rather than dresses because she isn’t your typical princess. I’m sure we’ve all read that book in some form or fashion. But the thing that set this book apart for me was that this was a return to the roots of YA. With clear cut heroine/hero and villain interactions. No enemies to lovers, no gray area characters. Everyone is trying to either do good or evil and it’s really easy to see the sides each character is on. I actually appreciated that very much. I’ve been reading a lot of edgy, almost speculative YA fantasy fiction recently (which is something I do enjoy), but this was a break from that and I liked it! This is also probably more of a lower to middle YA book as far as age groups go.
Princess Jennesara is a fun character to follow, she is headstrong, but lacking sometimes in confidence. I relate to that a lot in my personal life. But she begins to find her confidence along the way. This book is also written in the vein of the sweeping, epic fantasy novel in that there are lush countrysides, towering mountains, a wild forest filled with old and untamable magic, and neighboring kingdoms with scores to settle. The world had a distinctly Nordic influence that I also really enjoyed. Vikings were cool a few years ago, but this is more Viking-adjacent.
The plot takes a bit to really get going and there’s a lot of traveling in this book. One reviewer mentioned that it had more walking than a Lord of the Rings novel, and it kind of does? Lots of traveling to one destination or another, but lots of self-discovery and beautiful imagery along the way. The plot is solid, with a duology-type conclusion, so there’s definitely a second book. I did enjoy it, even with the tropes laid on thick.
Overall, great book that gets back to the roots of YA fantasy literature. Fans of Sarah J. Maas, Leigh Bardugo, Elena May, Rebecca Ross, Rebecca Lim, etc. will really enjoy this book!
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC of this book! I received a galley copy in exchange for an honest review.