I think the beginning and end of this are two totally different books.
Princess Jennessara has hidden her magic for her whole life; as the second born child in her family, she isn’t supposed to have it. Determined to do aid her struggling kingdom, she agrees to a betrothal to Prince Enzo in exchange for military aid. But when Jenna’s caravan is attacked on the way there, an ancient power is revealed that could destroy everything, and her magic could be the only thing to stop it.
The first half of this book seemed like a really, really slow version of Shadow and Bone. Thankfully, once the setting shifted, things got a lot more interesting, and a lot less familiar. Once Jenna met Mari, Chiara, and Enzo, I actually found the book really enjoyable. I’m a sucker for found family tropes, and the relationship Jenna has with all of them was really sweet. The characters were definitely the best part, and I hope we get to see a lot more of them, with less of the filler/background in the next book. (Also, side note, I really loved the Italian elements thrown in, because I haven’t seen that done before in a book like this!)
The plot was just okay for me. There were parts that were confusing, and parts that were really predictable, which made for a bit of an odd mix. Although toward the end there was a nice little twist that I wasn’t expecting at all. I do wish that the in-between perspective chapters had come together quicker, as I had no idea what was happening in them for a while. The ending also felt a little strange, almost like a list of what was going to happen in the next book, but that’s being a little picky.
To sum up, this book didn’t have much that made it feel particularly new or exciting plot wise, but the character’s relationships seemed a lot more real than in other fantasy I have read. I really did find it likable though, and have higher hopes for the next installment.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ 3.5/5 stars (rounded down)
Pace: slow beginning, fast end
Intended Audience: Young Adult
Content warnings: murder, death of a family member, sexual assault
Favorite Friday topic: Favorite underrated book