About the Book
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Perspective: 1st person, dual-POV
Publication Date: March 2, 2021
Format: Ebook – Netgalley ARC
Length: 320 pages
For a hundred years, the once-prosperous kingdom of Perin Faye has suffered under the rule of the greedy and power-hungry Thungrave kings. Maralyth Graylaern, a vintner’s daughter, has no idea her hidden magical power is proof of a secret bloodline and claim to the throne. Alac Thungrave, the king’s second son, has always been uncomfortable with his position as the spare heir—and the dark, stolen magic that comes with ruling.
When Maralyth becomes embroiled in a plot to murder the royal family and seize the throne, a cat-and-mouse chase ensues in an adventure of dark magic, court intrigue, and forbidden love.
About the Author
Jillian Boehme is known to the online writing community as Authoress, hostess of Miss Snark’s First Victim, a blog for aspiring authors. In real life, she holds a degree in Music Education, sings with the Nashville Symphony Chorus, and homeschools her remaining youngster-at-home. She’s still crazy in love with her husband of more than thirty years and is happy to be surrounded by family and friends amid the rolling knolls of Middle Tennessee.
Rating: 2/5 stars
The beginning of this book had so much promise—an intriguing magic system, a spare to the throne who spent his free time tutoring children, and a peasant girl whose life as a vintner’s daughter had the potential for a unique spin on the secret royal trope. Unfortunately, after a few chapters, it all collapsed in on itself and warped into a typical YA Fantasy that did not really bring anything new to the table.
Maralyth, or “Mara”, seemed more controlled by the circumstance of the plot than her own agency. She was easily manipulated and naïve to a fault, and by the end of the story her powers were more boring than interesting. Prince Alac, on the other hand, went from the second prince more than happy to live his life without responsibility to… well, that would go into spoiler territory, but his character shift was too quick to make it believable, even with the circumstances surrounding it.
MCs aside, the most interesting characters were by far the scheming Lord Nelgareth, the broody heir-to-the-throne Prince Cannon, and starry-eyed noblewoman Lady Ellian. While the climax of the story took an unexpected turn involving these characters, that intensity quickly faded back into a comfortable mediocrity, and I found myself wishing these characters could have been explored further. Meanwhile, other side characters seemed like cardboard cutouts, especially Alac’s father, the dark King Selmar II, Alac’s best friend Tucker (their bro-ey conversations were so cringey), and Mara’s brother Nestar (I didn’t feel the sibling bond that Boehme was so clearly trying so establish).
The plot did not offer anything new, a lot of the dialogue came off as stilted, and the romance was just meh. The writing style is juvenile, which may appeal to younger readers of YA, but even then I would not recommend it based on the book as a whole. Also, the scene where Mara gets attacked by a wild dog was so over-the-top and unnecessary that I couldn’t believe it was how the author chose to make one of the biggest reveals in the book.
Lastly, I would like to draw attention to Mash’s review on the portrayal of women in this book. I shared a lot of her thoughts regarding the internalized misogyny that was never addressed in the story, from girl hate to body shaming. Also, can we please stop writing Fantasy stories that oppress women for the sake of “worldbuilding”? Be intentional with your systems of oppression or don’t use them at all. It’s exhausting enough being a woman in the real world, and if you write magic and lore into your story and expect me to accept them you’d better believe I will find women’s equality equally as believable.
I hate leaving negative reviews, and after the beautiful cover and positive buzz for this book I was hoping to love it, but it sadly was a dud for me. If you have any other standalone Fantasy stories to recommend please send them my way!
Thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge via Netgalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.