You ever find a book and just know it’s a hidden gem right away?
Briony has wanted to be a Mage her whole life, jealous of their mystical studies and powers. When the Mages begin to be unjustly persecuted for their powers by a cruel ruler, she knows she has to do the unthinkable: journey to Asperfell, an inescapable Mage prison, to try and set her kingdom free. There she must not only find a way back, but convince Prince Elyan to go with her. But the Prince, accused of his father’s murder eight years ago is in no hurry to save a kingdom that abvandoned him so long ago. With the odds stacked against her, Briony must race against time and magic itself.
The best way I can think to describe Asperfell is a game of thrones era setting with a Cruel Prince style romance, and also magic! Which really, is just an awesome combination right there. I really didn’t know what to expect when I started this book, and it took me until Briony goes to Asperfell to really get into it. But after that, I was hooked!
The prison itself is definitely one of the highlights. I thought it was such a unique concept to have most of the story take place in a prison, which also means that most of the characters are criminals. Can you say morally grey? The prison becomes its own kind of world, and I loved the gradual exploration that takes place.
The fantasy element was also very well done. There are so many books I’ve read where the made-up words and objects just make me cringe internally. I actually forgot that this wasn’t based on any prior mythology (at least to my knowledge) because the lore felt so in depth. The magic was new and intriguing, and everything came together very nicely.
Finally, there are the characters themselves. Briony was pretty tough, and reminded me very much of Jude Duarte if she hadn’t been trained to fight growing up–lots of attitude, not a lot of skills. Which makes Elyan the parallel of the sassy, rude, and lovable Cardan. I felt like we didn’t get to see too much of the other characters in this book, but the core group that is clearly going to be set in the spotlight for the next one is very intriguing!
Although I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it was still a little bit predictable. I figured out the villain a good 50 pages before they were revealed (and probably should have even sooner). The romance was also very clear from the beginning, although it was not insta-lovey. Really that was the only thing keeping this from being a five-star read! I definitely think this book deserves more hype.
Intended audience: New Adult
Content warnings: Sexual assault, murder