First Lines: Dear Mama, I am most certainly not dead. Thank you for your tender concern. I will try to write more often so you don’t have to worry so between letters. (Because a week’s silence surely means I have fallen prey to a wasting illness or been murdered in these boring, gray streets.)
I am a big fan of Kiersten White, but for some reason this book kept eluding me. I’d wanted to read it, but I just forgot about it. It happens to the best of books. (Tell that to my copy of Jane Eyre that has set neglected on my bookshelves, never having been read.)
Jessamin is the textbook definition of a pariah when she comes from her island nation to the country of Albion. Drab, gray Albion is vastly different from her sunny, warm homeland, and Jessamin misses home. But life in Albion changes for her the moment she meets Finn, a gorgeous young lord who introduces Jessa to the world of Albion nobility, a world that has more than power and money…it also has magic. But Finn has secrets, secrets so dangerous that Lord Downpike, Finn’s rival, will do anything to possess. And Jessa, armed only with her wits and cunning, may just be the only one who can stop him.
As far as Kiersten White’s style goes, this is solidly her. It has humorous banter between the main characters that is charming and giggle-worthy, heart behind every character’s actions, mysteries, secrets, unexpected twists, and a cute love story. I was not disappointed.
I was incredibly surprised by the political nature of this story. And I don’t mean “political” like “Democrat vs. Republican” or anything. I mean more like whether countries should colonize “uncivilized” countries and what happens to those in the colonies. Or female equality. It definitely wasn’t a bad thing that this story had all those things. I was just surprised.
Mostly, I’d say this story had a feminist bend to it. And I use that word in the best way, as I consider myself a feminist. Jessamin does everything possible to be as strong as she can possible be and she will not let anyone else make decisions for her. She’s strong and stubborn, which sometimes leads her to make mistakes. But she definitely tries to assert her female dominance whenever she can. This has both good and bad effects, which I think was great that the story presented both sides.
Which leads me to Finn. He was an interesting counterpoint of Jessamin. He’s strong and stubborn too, but sometimes not as much as Jessamin. She is so strong and pushy the occasionally he had to step back and let her take the lead on whatever was going on. And he lets her. Far from making him seem weak or emasculated, I came to respect him more for it. He let Jessamin be who she wanted to be.
But I did struggle with the story early on. This is set in some unstated time period that feels somewhat Victorian but obviously in a fantasy world where countries like Albion exist. I just could not figure out to save my life what was going on in the first 40 pages or so. I found the writing to be vague and it seemed like Jessamin was unsure/unclear of things that she should have known quite well. Either that or I missed something. I just didn’t think it was very fleshed-out and I struggled to understand what was going on.
Overall, it’s a very entertaining story. Expect cliffhangers at the end of chapters. (Which means don’t plan on stopping at the end of chapters. It won’t happen and you’ll fall into the readers’ lie of “Oh, I’ll just read one more chapter and stop.”)