First Lines: The jeweled forest blurred into a tapestry of color as Evelayn sprinted away from the castle. She whipped past the trees and bushes as though she was made from the wind that pushed at her back.
I received this as an ARC a few weeks back, but I failed at reading it before it came out. C’est la vie. I tried. Anyway, I tried to read it close to its release date at the very least. (It came out May 30th). I loved Sara B. Larson’s prior fantasy series, so I had to give this a try.
It’s Princess Evelayn’s 18th birthday, and she can finally access the magic that runs through her kingdom and through her blood. Everything is brighter and sharper and just more. But what Evelayn wants more than anything is to spend her birthday with her mother, the Queen, who is fighting against King Bain of Dorjhalon on the war front. King Bain, though, is plotting. He wants control of both kingdoms and will do whatever he needs to to get it. When his focus shifts to Evelayn, she’ll have to overcome her fears and her youth to fight against this corrupt king, relying on her advisers and the handsome Lord Tanvir for help. But finding balance between the kingdoms comes with a steep price…is Evelayn still willing?
I felt like it took a really long time for this book to get on its feet. The action starts up pretty quickly, but that didn’t mean I understood what was happening. We’re in a fantasy world; we need some time to figure out what’s happening. It doesn’t just happen in a chapter, and that made some of the emotional parts in the beginning feel weird to me. I wasn’t invested in the story or the characters yet. I kept putting it down to do something–anything–else.
I did like the characters. Evelayn is a worthy queen and her friends Tanvir and Ceren are great counterparts to her. Even the enemies were well-written. My only issue with the characters was that the story spent so long telling us that we couldn’t trust anyone that I eventually didn’t trust any of them. So when I found out who we could trust and who we couldn’t, it didn’t pack much of a punch because there was so much distance I’d created between us. It was like the story was trying to tell me not to get too attached from the beginning. So I didn’t.
I felt like a lot of the action was also a bit slow or anticlimactic. Something tense would happen, but then it was quickly resolved. Which is fine a couple of times, but it meant that I didn’t feel a whole lot of reason to keep reading the book. There wasn’t much suspense. The action did pick up in like, the final chapter with some really awesome twists that made me want to pull out my popcorn and settle in. But, like I said, that was the last chapter or so. Not the whole book.
I don’t think Larson is a bad writer. I think she’s actually pretty good at crafting a good story. I just wasn’t particularly sold on this one. I’m not sure if it helped or hurt that I don’t know the story of Swan Lake, which this is based on.