Genre: Fantasy Age Range: YA Star Rating: 3 stars Series: Yes - book one of duology
Sora can move as silently as a ghost and hurl throwing stars with lethal accuracy. Her gemina, Daemon, can win any physical fight blindfolded and with an arm tied around his back. They are apprentice warriors of the Society of Taigas—marked by the gods to be trained in magic and the fighting arts to protect the kingdom of Kichona.
As their graduation approaches, Sora and Daemon look forward to proving themselves worthy of belonging in the elite group—but in a kingdom free of violence since the Blood Rift Rebellion many years ago, it’s been difficult to make their mark.
So when Sora and Daemon encounter a strange camp of mysterious soldiers while on a standard scouting mission, they decide the only thing to do to help their kingdom is to infiltrate the group. Taking this risk will change Sora’s life forever—and lead her on a mission of deception that may fool everyone she’s ever loved.
Love, spies, and adventure abound as Sora and Daemon unravel a complex web of magic and secrets that might tear them—and the entire kingdom—apart forever.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
I did like this book – it was a light, easy read with a plot that keep me reading even if I wasn’t on the edge of my seat, gripped. The differences in magic types was interesting (if it could have been explored some more) and the characters were lively.
This book is definitely on the younger end of YA. There’s nothing wrong with that – in fact, we need more books that aren’t targeting the older YA readers (and the 20+ readers). I fall into that 20+ bracket, so I was aware that I wasn’t the target audience when this book felt a little young at times.
There are quite a lot of POV, intially feeling like too many, but then it settled down and felt fine. I think this was because the POV wasn’t deep POV – and all but two POV clearly were just supplementing the main thread. They weren’t trying to have their own arcs and stories.
The first chapter is a massive exposition dump, designed solely to ensure we understand the taigas’ magic, and the history of the Blood Rift. It felt like a rather clunky opening. Later on, we get two separate myths (written out in full) designed to provide the villain’s motivation, and a twist/reveal near the end.
The motivation is crazy, in a bad sort of way. It just felt so unrealistic and how on earth could anyone actually believe this was a good idea? It was just laughable, and meant I didn’t think the villain was a truly credible threat. Yes, he has all this might behind him, but he came across as utterly delusional.
The reveal the other myth sets up I didn’t see coming (probably should have, considering the myth comes only about 50-100 pages before the reveal) but it wasn’t shocking. It was just, yeah OK, so that happens. I think it was because, after the villain’s motivation was explained I decided I had to suspend 90% of my disbelief or hate the book.
I’d been told the ending was dissatisfying, but I didn’t mind it. It seemed very surface level though, missing the emotional depth I like. Not to mention my suspension of disbelief meant I didn’t find much tension there.
It ends where you’d expect for a duology – but I suppose there are very few places you can end when there’s only one more book. There’s a lot still hanging, and no emotional closure on any threads. I like a book to feel like at least the main book threads have been resolved even if the over-arching story hasn’t.
Sora, the main MC, is described as being a mischief maker. However, in chapter four, a talk about her dead sister makes her promise to be the best she can be, not a mischief maker. This shocked me. We’ve been promised a prankster and now she’s promising not to be. While she doesn’t keep to this promise, she also doesn’t feel like a prankster. Someone who breaks rules, yes, but not a prankster. I did like her, however. She’s fun and light – even if it could feel like I was being hit over the head with how she felt.
Obviously, with this being YA and having two best friends bound together as gemina (like parabati), there’s going to be forbidden romantic feelings for one of them. I rolled my eyes the first time it was mentioned, but it doesn’t develop the way I’d expected – which was nice even if I can see that book two will have some romance-tension-angst out of it.
The world building in this book felt rather shaky. Other people have talked about how they weren’t sure what culture it was supposed to be inspired by, as elements seemed contradictory. I know so little about the possible cultures it could have been inspired by, so I won’t talk about that. However, there were other issues with the world-building that I haven’t seen talked about.
I’m prefacing this with a ‘yes, I understand this is fantasy, so you can build whatever world you like’. Having a family background in development and economics, I’m very aware of the inequality and motivations behind how a country evolves and develops. I felt that were some rather unbelievable key foundations to this world.
The country utterly adores the Empress. At no point do the common people express any dissatisfaction with her. Even if I’m willing to suspend my disbelief that a hereditary monarch with absolute power (and no people’s representation) has enough goodness in her heart to spend lots of money on improving people’s lives, people still fall through the gaps. How does she improve their lives? Not mentioned – beyond stopping her murder-intent brother taking over. I found the sheer devotion to the empress slightly unlikely and very one dimensional. There will always be nay-sayers.
Also, where does she get this money? I wasn’t under the impression it was a rich country. And the common people all wear very bright, dyed clothes. Colours are always going to be more expensive that undyed clothing, even if the expensive dyes aren’t the same as in our world.
There are also place names like ‘Warrior Meeting Hall’.
I will see, when the second book comes out, if I want to read it.