Author: Jennifer Anne Davis
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Length: 342 pages
Within these pages lie kingdoms with castles and princes who fall in love with fair maidens, but make no mistake−this is no fairytale.
His father’s kingdom is on the brink of upheaval and at the center of it all is an ordinary girl who could be the key to its undoing. When faced with the ultimate choice, will he choose the girl he’s falling in love with or the kingdom he has sworn to protect?
An ordinary girl with an extraordinary past. All she wants is to be free. What she doesn’t realize is that freedom comes with a price she can’t afford to pay. She’s forced to accept the proposal of a prince she despises, even though her heart belongs to someone else . . . his brother.
Seventeen-year-old Rema lives in a brutal kingdom where travel between regions is forbidden, people are starving, and looking at someone the wrong way can mean death. Nineteen-year-old Darmik is the king’s son and Commander of the King’s Army. He spends his days roving the island, doing his father’s bidding and trying to maintain control over the people.
When a chance encounter throws Rema and Darmik together, they share an instantaneous connection, but any sort of relationship between them is strictly forbidden. Darmik’s brother, the Crown Prince, notices Darmik’s interest in Rema and, in a calculated, political move, blackmails her. Faced with an impossible choice, Rema is forced to sacrifice her heart in order to save her family.
As Rema is taken to the palace with the Crown Prince, Darmik confronts the growing rumor that a legitimate blood heir to the throne exists and is trying to overthrow Darmik’s family. In Darmik’s quest to hunt down and kill the threat, he discovers that nothing is as it seems. Locked in the king’s castle, Rema finds herself a key player in a massive power struggle. When Darmik shows up, she’s not sure if she can trust him. The line between friends, enemies, and loyalty becomes blurred. As truths are unlocked, Rema understands that she just might be the key to finding the rightful heir and restoring peace to the kingdom… if she can manage to stay alive long enough.
Protagonists: This book is told in the third person POVs of both Rema, a horse breeder's niece who is in the dark about her true heritage, and Darmik, a second born prince and commander of the king's guard who learns of a long lost princess that could threaten his father's rule. I liked Rema more or less, I mean she doesn't really develop over the course of the book, she already starts off wild and sharp tongued and she never really changes other than her hatred for the royal family only grows hotter as the book goes on. Darmik is a different story altogether. Even though he too doesn't have much development, he's such a complex character that it was really fun to read his chapters. This is a guy who does his best to both uphold his father's demands as well as try and keep peace in the kingdom. He's not necessarily a character you should root for, but compared to his heartless father and brother he's a pure and righteous hero. Even though he does some fairly unsavory things in this book, they weren't necessarily a reflection of his character but more the position he's in.
Romance: Honestly I felt the romance was a bit uneven. It starts off fine enough but there isn't enough development seen to account for how deeply Rema and Darmik feel for each other toward the end of this book. I'm still a bit torn on it though as there is a part of me that feels like it's earned while the more logical and analytic part of me says it's not. Regardless, I do like the two together, not just because I'm told to or that there's no love triangle (at least not one I could take seriously) but because they seem to balance each other out in a way. I'll have to see how they interact in future installments as we don't get to see too much of them together, but so far I like it.
World-Building: So this book is your typical, kingdom overthrown and missing/long lost heir has to reclaim their throne story. However there are a few differences, first there's no magic, which was kind of a bummer, not because I needed magic but because I kind of felt there would be, and secondly the heir doesn't know just who she truly is, which adds an great level of intrigue to the book, mainly because it's so obvious to the reader. I really enjoyed the fantasy realism setting, and learning about not only the kingdom the story takes place in but about neighboring and related kingdoms as well. If I had to point out one thing I didn't like it was how the king and prince were so heartless without any real evidence as to why. Sure they could just both be sociopaths, which would make a lot of sense, but I've never really been into the evil for evil's sake kind of villain.
Predictability: So in the spirit of full disclosure I have to admit that I accidentally read a bit of the synopsis for the next book, enough to know roughly how to book would end. That being said this book was still chock full of surprises. Though a lot of the surprises I encountered were more in the things that I expected to happen which didn't. Since this book is told by two narrators, and sometimes parts of chapters are rehashed from the other's view, this book doesn't cover as much ground as I expected, so in return things that I had expected to happen will most likely be saved for the next installment. There were a few twists however, things that did happen that I didn't expect, though none were particularly shocking or blew my mind.
Ending: So like I said I had a pretty good idea how the ending would pan out, however on some level I was wrong. I was expecting a cliffhanger of sorts, but not that much of a cliffhanger. I mean cliffhangers like those have to be illegal right? No wonder this book is free, it lures you in with a great story but ends it there so you're compelled to buy the next book to see what happens. The final climax was interesting, but it wasn't anything special, in all honesty the very end was my favorite part, so intense.
So after deep contemplation I settled on four stars for this book. Though if you factor in the fact that it's free I would almost be tempted to give it five stars though I never factor in price. This is a great start to what looks to be a fantastic trilogy and I can't wait to continue.