Author: C.J. Redwine
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Length: 432 pages
Source: eGalley via Edelweiss
An epic, romantic, and action-packed fantasy inspired by the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, about a bastard princess who must take on an evil fae to save her brother’s soul, from C. J. Redwine, the New York Times bestselling author of The Shadow Queen. Perfect for fans of Graceling and the Lunar Chronicles.
The world has turned upside down for Thad and Ari Glavan, the bastard twins of Súndraille’s king. Their mother was murdered. The royal family died mysteriously. And now Thad sits on the throne of a kingdom whose streets are suddenly overrun with violence he can’t stop.
Growing up ignored by the nobility, Ari never wanted to be a proper princess. And when Thad suddenly starts training Ari to take his place, she realizes that her brother’s ascension to the throne wasn’t fate. It was the work of a Wish Granter named Alistair Teague who tricked Thad into wishing away both the safety of his people and his soul in exchange for the crown.
So Ari recruits the help of Thad’s enigmatic new weapons master, Sebastian Vaughn, to teach her how to fight Teague. With secret ties to Teague’s criminal empire, Sebastian might just hold the key to discovering Alistair’s weaknesses, saving Ari’s brother—and herself.
But Teague is ruthless and more than ready to destroy anyone who dares stand in his way—and now he has his sights set on the princess. And if Ari can’t outwit him, she’ll lose Sebastian, her brother…and her soul.
Characters: The way this story starts out is interesting. At first, we get a glimpse into the mind of our main villain, Alistair Teague. We see him approach young Theo Glavan, in his most desperate of moments and we see how he gets Theo to agree to the terms that he sets, it's all very compelling. (Especially of you imagine being read in a sinister voice, not just Teague's dialogue, but the exposition as well) We see Teague as this jaded fae, untrusting of humans, believing them to all be selfish at heart. It's a prologue that draws you into this story and more specifically into a curiosity of who Teague was in the past and what happened to make him so cruel and power hungry. Then the actual story starts. We meet Ari, now officially a princess of Súndraille, yet defying nearly every convention of what a princess should be. She's not demure, she will eat what she wants when she wants, and if you get on her bad side, heaven help you. Through the story, we discover just how far she'll go to protect those she cares about and just how much strength she has to see her friends, her family, and her country safe from Teague. Then there's Sebastian. Sebastian is that type of broken character that you just want to hug and reassure that everything will be alright. He has a surprising connection to Teague's criminal empire, though despises the fae and everything he stands for. His journey is much more internal. Like I said he's a bit broken, he suffers from PTSD due to an abusive childhood and has anxiety issues that resonated very strongly with me. I love how Redwine writes such in-depth characters and even gives you a glimpse into the villain to learn about and understand them as the story goes along.
Romance: Since Ari grew up a bastard princess she was never treated as a member of the nobility, because of that she treats everyone the way they deserve to be treated, not the way others of her now higher station treat them. After searching out Sebastian, her brother's new weapons master, in hopes he can help her with her brother's Wish Granter problem, they form an unlikely friendship, mainly due to Ari's relentless pursuit of a friendship with the young weapons master. As they grow closer as friends, it's obvious there's something more there. The romance unfolds at a great even pace. The characters fit so well together, and I never felt like the author was forcing things to go too fast or running toward an end goal with them, but rather chronicling their romance as it would naturally happen. This, of course, led me to root for the couple through all their trials and tribulations, mostly external as there actually wasn't a lot of romantic drama between the two, and made me feel that it's almost serendipitous that this book comes out of Valentine's Day.
World Building: After reading The Shadow Queen, I was itching to get back into this world, and while we only have one little cameo from previously seen characters, I ended up loving this book more than the first. In this book we visit the kingdom of Súndraille and follow a story inspired by the classic fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin, I say inspired by and not based off of or a retelling of because while it does involve a wish granting fae entrapping someone into a deal that's nearly impossible to break, this wasn't a retelling. It's its own story that merely shares similar themes to the fairy tale. I wasn't bothered that this wasn't really a retelling as the story is so compelling I couldn't put it down. In this book, we learn more about the fae who reside in Llorenyae and each bit of info we get makes me more and more excited for a possible book taking place in that kingdom. It follows pretty standard fae lore, Winter and Summer Kingdoms, magical folk, etc. all of which is so enthralling. We do see a bit of another fairy tale in this one, I won't say how, but I was sort of giddy, for no real reason, when it's brought up, but it just speaks to this incredible fairy-tale inspired world the author has created.
Predictability: Since the last tale in this companion novel trilogy followed out heroes as they traversed across the kingdom of Ravenspire, I was interested to see if our new heroes would also set out of a kingdom trekking journey, however, it became obvious very early on that this story all takes place inside of the capital city of Súndraille. Because of that, the pacing of the book is a bit different, focusing more on the knowledge needed to defeat their enemy than the magical strength required to oppose them. As the story moves on things begin to pop up, bits of information that over time begin to tie together. While there were a few twists to the story that I saw coming, due to the different pacing my guards were down and most of the time that a twist was coming up, all I really had to go on was the feeling that something was brewing, but never really being able to pinpoint what. This led to a lot of great tension filled moments that left me nearly breathless as I scanned the pages (screen?) to find out what happened next and how this twist would play into the story. It was exhilarating.
Ending: Does anybody else notice that the closer you get to the end of a book, the faster you read or is that just me? As the ending of this book commenced I was glued to the words I was reading. The final climax of this book was phenomenal as things didn't quite go the way I expected and watching our heroes face their final trials against the fae crime lord left me speechless most of the time. Since this is a standalone companion novel everything wraps up rather neatly, for better or worse, and every second I got closer to the end, the more I realized I never wanted it to end. However, I am pleased with the closure this story has, and am torn because, on the one hand, I love this story, but on the other, the wait for the next adventure in this world is going to eat away at me day by day, I just know it.
Given the glowing review I gave this book, it should come as no surprise that I gave this book five stars. I love this book even more than the first. The world building is immaculate, the characters are enchanting, and the romance is to die for!