I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.
Genre: Fantasy (Political!) Age Range: Adult Star Rating: 5 stars Series: standalone
‘She loved me as I loved her, fierce as a bloodied blade.’
When teenage queen Lia inherits her corrupt uncle’s bankrupt kingdom, she brings a new spymaster into the fold … Xania, who takes the job to avenge her murdered father.
Faced with dangerous plots and hidden enemies, can Lia and Xania learn to rely on each another, as they discover that all is not fair in love and treason?
In a world where the throne means both power and duty, they must decide what to sacrifice for their country – and for each other…
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
This book is incredible. If I had finished it before my “best books of 2019” list had gone live, it would have been on there.
This political fantasy has layers upon layers of deception the two POVs (Lia and Xania) must unravel, with the help of Lia’s best friend and secretary, Matthias. It is an engaging and intelligent book, seeding the hints of the schemes throughout and demanding the reader think alongside the characters.
There are so many twists and turns, including several that made me gasp. These revelations and action pushed the plot in a new direction as all plans were thrown into disarray (and all my predictions shown to be wrong!).
Not only is it political fantasy, but part of the intrigue comes from financial dealings and embezzlement. I’m the daughter of an (agricultural) economist, and (though I’d never admit it to him) I am fascinated by parts of the economy. So I was delighted to read about embezzlement and bribery, and for it to be so central to the plot. I told my dad that Xania was a “clerk of the Exchequer-turned-spy”. Yes, it’s nerdy, but that is me to a ‘t’.
There isn’t any magic, which often bugs me if it’s lacking from secondary fantasy (as it’s an aspect of the world that could have been exploited). However, I was so engrossed that I didn’t notice the lack of magic.
Lia and Xania are an adorable couple, both strong-willed and more than willing to fight as they try to work around their different priorities and the power balance between them. I liked that them getting together wasn’t the final stage of their relationship shown. Instead, we see them past the get together, as that allowed for much more personal growth – and conflict. And, don’t worry, there’s no chance of a love triangle with Matthias, as he’s gay and a stalwart friend throughout.
The world has a ruling monarchy that has to contend with a law-making parliament, like the start of several European democracies. The power is still firmly in the nobles’ hands, but there are avenues for those not of the Steps (the noble ranks) to wield influence. I loved this! It’s rare to see democracies in fantasy, and the tug of war between parliament and crown was brilliant. Lia was forced to play a balancing act between the many parties, stymieing her efforts.