I received an audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.
Genre: Fantasy Age Range: YA Star Rating: 3 stars Series: yes - first book
Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.
Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.
Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?
Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
This book, unfortunately, suffered from being an audiobook ARC that I started right as my brain decided that it absolutely did not want audiobooks. To be fair, that is my usual state of being, and the eight months of devouring audiobooks at the end of 2021/start of 2022 is highly unusual. I eventually got through it when I had to do a lot of mindless data processing. I put the audiobook on while doing that and got through most of the book in a few days.
I an unsure if, were to re-read it in physical format, I might enjoy it a lot more (particularly as it wouldn’t take so long to read and my brain wouldn’t be drifting off!) This review is also being written after ~4 days of bingeing through the second half of the audiobook, and I was most certainly way more engaged by that half, reading in quick succession, then I had been when listening in small, infrequent bursts.
I liked the Italian-inspired world and the place the magic ended up heading to, when Alessa worked out what it was that made her magic tick. It felt like it really suited the character and did lead to a far more spectacular ending then her magic following the world’s “traditional” magic.
This was also the section where I liked Alessa a lot more. I completely understand why she has the “I’m awful and useless and terrible” mindset (I mean, who wouldn’t after her previous experience?) However, it’s a mindset that feels so stereotypical of YA fantasy heroines at the moment, and while having journeys that end in heroines loving themselves for themselves (albeit, usually only after a usually surly man has fallen in love with them, le sigh), it does start to feel very repetitive and “just like the norm”, making it an element that doesn’t stand out.
I really liked where I thought the ending was going, as the cost and sacrifice of Alessa’s victory appeared to be so much stronger than often given in this sort of book. But then it was undone, taking the book to a more typical ending. It felt like a cop-out, undercutting the previous events and emotional beats. Not to mention the way the entire cop-out and ensuing characters weren’t typing up the book but were entirely devoted to setting up the next one. It was a rather long denouement.
This book has two narrators, Carlotta Brentan and Michael Gallagher. Brentan is really good narrator – once I had the ability to listen in long stretches, she really brought me into the world and the story. It took a very long time for Gallagher to say anything, only narrating chapters 54 and 56 in a 58 chapter book. I honestly thought that, perhaps, he was being credited at the opening and closing remarks (the copyright stuff) speaker (turns out she did that!) So when he did come in, it was a surprise, and a pretty jarring one. It also felt so unnecessary to have his POV when the rest of the books was from Alessa. Not to mention those chapters were part of the undercutting and setting up the next book part.
I may or may not read the next book – I guess we’ll see how my recollections have shifted in a year (have I remembered the ease of listening to the second half more, or the disappointment of some elements?)