“Yeah, well, you basically don’t have emotions between ‘gotta kill’ and ‘yay, I killed,’ so that’s not really a surprise.”
Life as a royal bastard is never easy, but for Tilla, it’s far from the lot she wants in life. She spends her days drinking away the hours with her half-brother, Jax, holding to a small, childlike hope that her father, Lord of House Kent, will someday legitimize her. Despite these problems, life is simple enough, until the Princess Lyriana comes to visit, and everything goes wrong.
Witnessing a murder that should never have happened, and certainly wasn’t intended for their eyes, Tilla and Jax find themselves on the run, along with Lyriana, Miles (the bastard of House Hampstedt), and Zell, a Zitochi warrior whose dishonor has bastardized him, too. They’ve been framed for a crime punishable by death, and war is on the horizon; can they survive long enough to stop the uprising and save themselves?
ALL OF MY LOVE, YOU GUYS. I would give this book 10/5 stars if I could, I swear. I honestly went into the book without a clue of what I should expect, and while I was optimistic, my hopes weren’t that high. This book literally shattered every single expectation I held. The writing style is easy and fun, without being childish. The characters share a witty banter that never gets old, and helps to lighten the heavier moments whenever necessary. Each character is complex and three-dimensional, with surprises, likes and dislikes, emotions and feelings – nobody in this book felt like a “prop”, which is an unfortunately common occurrence with books involving this many front-and-center characters, from my experience.
Tilla? Total feminist badass. She wants to drink with the guys, but she wants to be recognized as her father’s heir. She craves his respect, yet is infuriated by his refusal to legitimize her. She wants to wear fun dresses and live it up in a castle, but she asks to be taught how to fight, and craves the aches and pains that come after every training session with Zell. She keeps her mind open to the possibilities and doesn’t let herself become jaded, though she’s also careful to keep her wits about her. I seriously lived for this MC, as well as her half-brother, Jax. Jax is witty and hilarious, and so precious and sweet, and their sibling bonding moments completely melted me. I love a good family dynamic, and these two have the best sibling relationship I have seen in a book in years.
While Lyriana is a general pain in the ass for a great deal of the book, she’s never unbearable, and I appreciate the fact that she redeemed herself by the end. Zell is your fairly predictable stoic murder-y guy with a gooey, soft heart of gold underneath, but that didn’t stop me from rooting for him the entire way. Miles alternates between being an annoying little shit and being fairly badass, though he was definitely my least favorite character, especially for the way he acted from the beginning like he was owed something by Tilla. Speaking of which, this book legitimately stormed into the whole dudes-whining-about-friend-zoning debacle and just blew that shit to pieces and I cheered through every minute of it.
Now, as far as the setting goes: if you like Game of Thrones, I would especially recommend this book to you, because I got hardcore ASOIAF vibes from the politics and world-building of this book – on a much smaller, YA-friendly scale, granted. I don’t mean that as a bad thing at all; I love a book with a good royalty/nobility/political setup, and this one didn’t fail to deliver. I also need to tell you that, despite the fact that this book is definitely one of those “characters running from danger” books from practically start to finish, it never feels repetitive or tiring. Every time it risks becoming stale, there’s another twist, action scene, or hilarious conversation to perk things right back up.
I don’t think I can say much more without throwing out some spoilers, but I’ll end this review on this note: this book is definitely in my top 5 of 2017 list so far, and I am absolutely ecstatic that there are going to be more books in the series. This is, by far, the best ARC that I have had the pleasure of reading and reviewing since I started blogging, and my next book order is going to involve a completed copy, because I could easily see myself rereading this book in the future, and Andrew Shvarts deserves all the royalties for creating such a delightful little world. I can’t wait for the next installment.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes adventure, fantasy, a little magic, a little romance, a lot of laughter and friendship, and a damn good time.
Huge thank you to NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion for the ARC!