I received an eARC from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.
Genre: Fantasy Age range: YA Star Rating: 4 stars Series: yes - first book
After the destruction of her entire Talon gang, eighteen-year-old Shin Lina—the Reaper of Sunpo—is forced to become a living, breathing weapon for the kingdom’s most-feared crime lord. All that keeps her from turning on her ruthless master is the life of her beloved little sister hanging in the balance. But the order to steal a priceless tapestry from a Dokkaebi temple incites not only the wrath of a legendary immortal, but the beginning of an unwinnable game…
Suddenly Lina finds herself in the dreamlike realm of the Dokkaebi, her fate in the hands of its cruel and captivating emperor. But she can win her life—if she kills him first.
Now a terrible game of life and death has begun, and even Lina’s swift, precise blade is no match for the magnetic Haneul Rui. Lina will have to use every weapon in her arsenal if she wants to outplay this cunning king and save her sister…all before the final grain of sand leaks out of the hourglass.
Because one way or another, she’ll take Rui’s heart. Even if it means giving up her own.
Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
LAST OF THE TALONS is a book steeped in Korean folklore about an assassin who finds herself stuck in a game with an immortal – kill him or be killed herself.
There’s a lot of action packed into this book, starting off with a heist. I like heists so this was the perfect start for me – hints of the creatures in the world building, a sense of history, and also stealing a precious tapestry.
The book is sort of told over two timelines, with the bulk of the book taken up by the present timeline of her in the other realm trying to kill Rui. However, interspersed are flashbacks to the events leading up to Lina joining her current gang. You know from the start it was not her choice and that her old gang, her family, were killed, but you don’t know exactly how or why. The information is revealed slowly over the book, building up a picture of her past.
Lina explores the pocket realm the immortals are trapped in, and it was interesting to read about the consequences of forcing a bunch of people used to roaming into one place, the way lives changed. To humans like Lina, the realm is mystical and magical (and terrifying), but there are some very mundane structural issues that are found in her home too. Usually it’s the humans who end up at the bottom of the pile, with the immortals at the top, but when there are few humans, what happens?
This is the start of a series (duology?) and while there are definitely things that need to be resolved in the next book, this one comes to a really nice conclusion without a cliffhanger.