by Melissa De La Cruz
Amazon / Goodreads
Plot Summary:Princess Marie-Victoria, heir to the Lily Throne, and Aelwyn Myrddn, bastard daughter of the Mage of England, grew up together. But who will rule, and who will serve?
Quiet and gentle, Marie has never lived up to the ambitions of her mother, Queen Eleanor the Second, Supreme Ruler of the Franco-British Empire. With the help of her Head Merlin, Emrys, Eleanor has maintained her stranglehold on the world's only source of magic. She rules the most powerful empire the world has ever seen.
But even with the aid of Emrys' magic, Eleanor's extended lifespan is nearing its end. The princess must marry and produce an heir or the Empire will be vulnerable to its greatest enemy, Prussia. The two kingdoms must unite to end the war, and the only solution is a match between Marie and Prince Leopold VII, heir to the Prussian throne. But Marie has always loved Gill, her childhood friend and soldier of the Queen's Guard.
Together, Marie and Aelwyn, a powerful magician in her own right, come up with a plan. Aelwyn will take on Marie's face, allowing the princess to escape with Gill and live the quiet life she's always wanted. And Aelwyn will get what she's always dreamed of--the chance to rule. But the court intrigue and hunger for power in Lenoran England run deeper than anyone could imagine. In the end, there is only rule that matters in Eleanor's court: trust no one.
Review:I honestly don't know what to think about this book. On the one hand, I enjoyed the power play politics of the court, the soap opera-ish drama of all the different characters and the dilemmas they were faced with. Each character had such a rich back story as well and I felt like a whole book could have been written on each one of them. But the resolution of the novel was just awful for me. I'm so unhappy with everything about it.
The plot of this book is much more than what it seems on the surface because of all the different important characters. Each chapter is from a different character's POV, and they were all very well written and fleshed out. Even though Marie and Aelwyn seem the main characters from the plot synopsis, I think the focus was on other characters more often than not which made the book feel very episodic. The way the story moved between all of these characters didn't always gel with me, but the story as a whole had a lot of dimension because of how well written the characters were. With the world-building, the magic element did not get enough action I think. It played an important part, but I would have liked to know more about it and why, when science has given us so much convenience, magic has such a strong hold on this world. Even though the book is set in our time, because magic has had such a strong influence there is a sense that the culture is stuck in the past, and has not had a chance to move forward. The world-building is very interesting, but there's not much depth given to it.
I'm not giving away any spoilers, but the ending really had some strange developments for me. Decisions were made way too quickly in my opinion and some characters' actions (or changes of heart) made no sense to me at all. There are some major revelations in this book that could have been really effective emotionally, but because the book moved around among the characters so much there was little suspenseful build up, and I felt almost indifferent to everything. And disappointed in a lot of the characters' fates.
I feel like this story takes a rather realistic, character-driven approach to YA fantasy that may appeal to some readers. It does have a contemporary feel despite the magic and the anachronistic culture, so perhaps this book is more for readers who enjoy a more non-traditional YA fantasy.
(I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review.)