This review will include my thoughts on the audio book version in addition to the content.
This book was fantastic. The world the author created was rich and engaging. I loved learning more and more of it as I read (listened) without it feeling too heavy on explanation. The build-up of the major plot was handled so well, the pacing kept me engaged and needing to know more.
The main characters are also well written. I fell in love with both Ayla and Crier almost immediately. I really enjoyed the slow-building tension between them. I was drawn to Ayla’s confusions about her feelings and revelations through the book as well as Crier’s attempts to understand herself and the events spiraling around her.
I’m exceedingly anxious to read the next book!
Full Review with Spoilers
I am in love with this book. The world was so rich and interesting. The author did a really good job of building up this world throughout reading the entire book. At no point did I feel confused because of not knowing something or bored at being explained too much at once. I adore a fantasy with unique elements thrown in. This book is a very medieval type setting with an almost robotic like race called Automae. It doesn’t go into great detail how exactly this race was created or the exact inner workings and honestly I love that. It keeps things mysterious to me. I don’t need to know.
Ayla is a human girl with an agenda. The Automae royalty were the cause of her family’s murder when she was a child and she wants vengeance. The nature of this vengeance? Kill the sovereign’s daughter, Crier. Ayla is such an interesting character. She’s driven by her goals and is a little bit selfish in this endeavour. She is working with a rebel group that hopes to make life better for all humans, and her personal agenda could jeopardize all of this. She is flawed. She is human.
Crier is also flawed in various ways, both realistically and metaphorically. I just adored her. She was sweet, naive, genuine and full of curiosity. I instantly liked her even before we got to know her better. She is full of ambition but her naivety caused her to experience harsh realities too late.
The chemistry between these two when they are forced together was a genuine shock to me. I was not sure how this would work out. Ayla wants nothing more than to kill Crier when the time is right, yet she is obligated to be her personal handmaiden. The attraction wasn’t instant, but the development of it was so sweet. Neither of them saw it coming, but due to being a separate race and both of them being girls, yet it does.
I realized while listening that there wasn’t as much content of the two of them actually being around each other as I thought there would be. This was actually perfectly fine. The scenes they had together were meaningful and more often than not, intense emotionally. The rest of the time we see great character development and story progression.
They two of them finally cross that line beyond royalty and servant closer to the end of the book and it’s so emotional and thrilling it made me giddy. It was just a kiss, but the author did a fantastic job of pouring all the built up tension into it. It could not have been done better. I was genuinely heartbroken when Ayla’s mentor/foster mother gets killed in a riot and it sends Ayla off the deep end and back to her original agenda: kill Crier to avenger her family. She tries so hard to put aside her feelings and new discoveries she’s made because of Crier and in the moment of truth, she just can’t. This moment broke my heart and I loved it.
All of the political drama just continues to escalate through the whole thing as mysteries start to unravel. This book however, ends right in the middle of it all. I cannot stress how excited I am for the rest of the story, both to see what happens with the world at large and to find out how Crier and Ayla manage to come back together.
The narrator for this book, Kim Mai Guest, is fantastic! As each chapter switches from following Crier or Ayla her voice changes tone just enough that I would know which one was the focus even without a name. Additional characters were represented well through her voicing, but it was the tone of both Ayla and Crier that really sold it for me and I can only hope she continues on with the next book.