As an elite spy and the Queen’s Third-in-Command, Aya has dedicated herself to a life of discipline and duty, using her gods-given abilities to keep dark magic from ever returning to the realm. Her oath ensures she will always act to protect those she fights alongside—including Will, the Queen’s Enforcer and Aya’s bitter rival.
Forced by circumstance to work together, Aya and Will struggle to come to an uneasy truce. But when tragedy strikes, Aya instinctively reacts, unleashing a power that hasn’t been seen in over 500 years. Shaken, she’s confronted with an impossible truth: one that threatens the precious grip she keeps on her control. One that forces her to work with Will to discover who—or what—she really is. And one that could turn her into a weapon in a war she doesn’t know how to win.
With Will at her side and untold power at her fingertips, Aya will have to decide: Has she been sent to save the realm she loves…or destroy it?
Synopsis source: Goodreads
I must be living under a rock because while so many others heard of this book from TikTok, I just came across it when browsing YA/NA Fantasy titles on NetGalley. It sounded intriguing to me and I had good feelings heading into the book. After finishing, I feel very middle of the road on it, so I’m going to try to sort out my thoughts on the book by addressing the different aspects and tropes found in it.
- Magic System: There was a lot of info-dumping in the first part of the book that I think could have been incorporated better into the narrative. Instead, the way it is written necessitates the glossary of terms at the back of the book which makes me feel more like I’m reading a historical text that I’m going to be quizzed on. I was so busy trying to sort out all the terms and being confused by similar words for very different things (like Diaforaté, Decachiré, and Dyminara) that I was on the struggle bus for a bit, but eventually it all got sorted out in my head and things picked up in the middle of the story. Still, it was well-planned and interesting. My only complaint is that I didn’t really quite understand how the wolves played into it all.
- Political and Religious Intrigue: The political and religious intrigue of this book feels like looking at a clock face. I see the overall effect, how one thing effects another and pushes things forward, but I had hoped for a deeper look. I want to see the inner workings better.
- World-Building: If you separate out the magic system and the political/religious intrigue from the world-building, you’ll find that there is very little left. I honestly couldn’t tell you anything about the physical setting of this book other than there were castles, dungeons, a boat and a desert.
- Female Spymaster: I’ve seen other reviewers remark that Aya was too recognizable to other characters within the story to be a realistic spymaster. I’m not sure I fully agree with that. Those in the know, high-ranking members of the courts, more than likely WOULD recognize her, especially given her standing rank as the Queen’s third. Still, I would have really liked to see more of her spymaster side, her network, her work in the shadows, rather than just be told of it.
- Enemies to Lovers: I’m a bit torn on this aspect. Apparently this aspect was hyped quite a bit on TikTok and some other early readers have been let down by it. I didn’t feel that way, maybe just because I didn’t follow the author on TikTok prior to reading the book. But while I don’t agree that it was as bad as others say, I also don’t think it is exactly the greatest example simply because it took too long for the romance to happen. That said, I do believe the scenario is plausible. Essentially, everything Will does is to keep Aya safe. But why does he care? That’s never really explained well, we are just expected to accept it. But the idea that their romance couldn’t happen until Aya could separate her fear and guilt from reality and stop projecting those things on Will as a means of coping with them felt very real. I think it we had gotten more of Will’s background it would have helped understand his “why” and make him jump off the page a bit more, then that would have helped the overall romance as well.
- POVs: We are given 3 POVs, one of which, in my opinion, was unnecessary. I have more thoughts on this but they’re a bit spoilery. Hover over the spoiler below to view those thoughts.
Even with my issues with it, the story was compelling enough to me to keep me reading past my bedtime.
This book is clearly intended for fans of SJM, and I think that the author has a very real potential. I look forward to seeing her grow and hope that she expands more on the story in the second book, which I look forward to reading. I believe this is one of those books where the second book in the series is better than the first, like the ACOTAR series if I’m being honest, and I look forward to it.
Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Casablanca for an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
Until next time,
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