By: Cait Marie
*I received a free ARC of this book from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (via giveaway) for my honest review.*
In a kingdom that forbids magic and executes anyone suspected of being a witch, Princess Aurelia must hide her abilities to use blood magic. She just has to keep the secret until she reaches Achleva, the kingdom whose prince she is betrothed to. When an assassination attempt cuts their plans short, she finds herself fleeing to Achleva with her younger brother, her guard/friend, and two others. Things don’t go as planned, though, and she ends up needing to sneak into the city alone and stay hidden.
Achleva has a magical wall protecting its borders, but someone is trying to take it down. In the process, people are dying and natural disasters are wreaking havoc on the city. Zan hates the court life and is always sneaking out of the castle. When their paths cross, Aurelia (who gives a false name) agrees to work with Zan in stopping the wall from coming down in exchange for his help into the castle when the time is right.
This book is fantastic! The cover is what originally drew me to the book (I mean, have you seen how gorgeous it is?!), then I read the synopsis and knew I had to read it. It was quickly added to my most anticipated reads list. It’s Crystal Smith’s debut novel, which made me a little nervous. I was trying to not get my hopes up too much about a book by a new author I knew nothing about… That was completely unnecessary, though! It’s wonderful!
It’s a YA fantasy book that has many of the cliché tropes, but it’s such a creative and fascinating story. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book with actual magic and not just powers or something of that nature. There was a very deep plot that kept building and building, with so much of a backstory, but it’s written in a way that’s easy to follow. Everything is beautifully written–the world building, the characters, the magic, the history of these kingdoms.
I wish there had been more about the history, actually. There’s so much there and it’s so intriguing. Without spoiling things, there are certain characters and beings that are introduced from the past, and most of them we get a pretty solid story, but there are still some questions I have. This is going to be a trilogy, though, so I’m sure those are things that will be brought up as more of the story unfolds.
As I’ve mentioned before, characters are usually the most important part of a story for me. If the characters are dull and lifeless, I’m bored and have a hard time continuing. If the plot isn’t great, but the characters are, I will probably still enjoy the book. This story had both an interesting plot and characters. Aurelia and Zan work together, but don’t get along. There’s a lot of snarky bickering and sarcasm, which you all know is my favorite. We also see Nathaniel and Kate, friends of Zan’s who basically take in Aurelia. Friendships grow, villains are not all they appear to be, and there is no lack of action in this book. It kept me interested from the beginning and I had a hard time putting it down. This book has a little bit of everything. It made me anxious throughout parts, I laughed, I cried… It was great. If you like YA fantasy, definitely give this one a go.