My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This review will include my thoughts on the audio book version in addition to the content.
I really enjoyed this book. It was a good mix of political intrigue and romance. I really enjoyed that there was a larger overlying plot involving potential war, but the story stayed focused where it needed to be and didn’t get too big.
The world is very interesting and I enjoyed the history and culture that was created for it. The slow burn relationship between the two main characters was perfect for me as well. The characters were well written and it felt believable.
I normally am not a fan of first-person point of view, especially when it jumps back and forth between two different characters, but this worked well. Both characters have very unique personalities so it was fun seeing the world with two different views.
Full Review with Spoilers
I went into this book with high expectations. A sapphic retelling of a classic fairytale is something I will always jump on. I was extremely happy to see that this book delivered and then some. The entire story is told from the perspective of Alyce, the traditional villain of Sleeping Beauty. The books acts as much like an origin story as much as it is a retelling.
Alyce is a fantastic character. She is told she is essentially evil and dark her whole life, that she is something other. It was heartbreaking to see how she deals with this her whole life and as much as she tries not to be that person, it definitely shaped who she is. She does what is essentially considered bad things because it is what is expected of her and what she is brought up to believe is the only thing she can do. Aurora is also a great main character. She is a princess and at first glance Alyce’s total opposite. The relationship that builds between them through the book is so well done. It was great to see them connect over their general dislike of everyone around them then it progress to Alyce trying to help her break the curse that will kill her when she turns 21. I loved seeing Alyce’s emotion progress and escalate even if she could quite see it for what it is.
There was a very interesting magic, social structure, and history developed in this book. I especially loved how the decline in ruling from a Queendom to a Kingdom where the queens have essentially given all their power to her husband over time really hinted at the same type of direction the story was going to take. The author did a great job placing these hints and connecting everything in a smooth flow that never felt like an information overload to the reader.
The storyline flowed so very well. There was a fantastic mix of emotional drama, angst and the sweeter buildup on the romance side. The romance was definitely not the focus of the story, though it was very much there. It really focus on Alyce’s build up to becoming a villain. And it was such a ride! Once Alyce crosses that line into actually killing people I have no idea what I should feel. Up to that point we get to see everything that has just been stacking against her and in a way we really see the justification for her actions. I ended the book completely blown away by the turn of events. We see Alyce exactly how we expect, guarding a sleeping princess against a kingdom that hates her.
This was a great retelling that gives the reader a new way of looking at a classic and very well known fairytale. Good story telling and great character development make this an extremely enjoyable read and one you won’t want to put down.
This book was exactly what I was hoping it would be. It is the perfect mix of politics, magic and romance. I was genuinely unsure where the story was going throughout the book and loved that it wasn’t entirely predictable. I really felt like the author balanced the romance arc and political intrigue arc well side by side. At no point did I think one was being pushed to the back more than the other.
I was surprised how well the first person point of view worked hoping back and forth between the two main characters every other chapter. It felt important to see things the way they both did because of how different the two of them are. Additionally, I listened to the audio book version of this story as well as reading along with the physical book. Having two separate voice actors for the two main characters was great and really added to the depth of the story. Both women, Saskia Maarleveld and Moira Quirk were fantasitc.
The characters were really interesting and well-written. Amaranthine (or Mare) is the relatable tomboy princess that just wants to live her own life but deep down hates that she always seems to disappoint those around her. I loved her spunk and stubborn attitude. Dennaleia is her exact opposite. She’s a proper princess who has gone her whole life doing exactly what was expected of her. I really loved her character too. She struggles a lot with the what is right versus what she wants. Her struggles to hide and control a power she doesn’t understand and isn’t supposed to have is also really exciting to see.
The world building was handled nicely as well. I didn’t feel overloaded with information, but also never felt confused or left in the dark. The information was presented at the right times and I liked the world the story takes place in. The magic system was well explained and didn’t feel cheesy. Dennaleia having almost no knowledge of how her own powers worked was a great way for us to learn along with her. The underlying theme of racism is evident in the hatred and fear of magic and those who use it. This is the device used to fuel a political war with a neighboring kingdom where magic is very common place. Faking magic to assassinate role family members being abused in order to instill more fear and animosity. I was on edge the entire time through this. I couldn’t figure out where the attacks on the noble family where coming from or why. The author does a great job of introducing enough side characters with interesting personalities to give you a few options to predict. I will admit, I didn’t not expect the actual outcome.
Each of these minor characters had personality, but I do admit a few felt very much like they were meant for a few scenes to throw you off and not much else. Others, like Karov serve a greater purpose and to add a thread into the story that sets us up for the next book. No one character was just flat out unlikable, even those meant to be antagonistic.
My favorite part of the story was the slowburn romance between Mare and Dennaleia. The clash of personalities fit well and the romance didn’t feel too sudden or just simply there for no real reason. It was passionate when appropriate and the tension really kept me interested to see who would confess and how they would resolve Dennaleia being bethrothed to Mare’s brother, Thandilimon. I struggled with how to feel too because Thandilimon was a nice guy, if a little naive. I didn’t want him to get hurt so it just added that much more tension while reading about the budding romance between those two.
The resolution to the story wrapped up the overall plot nicely, but left us with a clear path into the next book. I had just enough questions that made me want to continue.