A guest review by Sirius
Summary: If you like the “arranged marriage” trope with two engaging main characters in a fantasy setting, you may enjoy this story. I for the most part enjoyed it quite a lot.
Tucked safely away from the world on their peninsula, the three ‘Veld kingdoms—Estveld, Ostveld, and Norveld—have little to do with the rest of the world, instead focusing their efforts on fighting amongst themselves. But the world hasn’t forgotten about them, and the Cheil Empire has turned its armies their way.
The three ‘Velds ally together, but even their combined might is not enough to prevent their eventual defeat. The kings are forced to surrender, but the terms for Estveld and Ostveld appear suspiciously lenient; each kingdom maintains its independence, so long as the royal bloodline continues unbroken. The only catch seems to be that the Cheil Emperor is allowed to choose each generation’s bride.
Prince Cavan of Ostveld is unhappy with the terms because he fears he won’t be allowed to marry the princess to whom he was betrothed. Prince Gair of Estveld is disgruntled because he never intended to marry at all. But the surrender is already signed, and the princes are left with no choice but to travel to the capital of the Cheil Empire where they will learn who—or what—the Emperor has in store for them.
I am pretty sure that you will make a correct deduction after you will read the blurb about whom princes Gair and Cavan are ordered to marry by the Emperor. I am indifferent to the “arranged marriage” theme, but if somewhere in there I see the signs “from enemies to lovers” theme, I am sold and I was sold on this book. Two princes from neighboring kingdoms who constantly fight and that is why unable to resist the bigger threat from the Empire basically stole my heart.
I was surprised that, considering the theme, the book was kind of low key. While the young men bicker and fight, it felt like they fight about smaller issues and both do the right thing when and where it matters. They are honorable men who are ready to do anything for their kingdoms. I guess I expected more over-the-top jumps from one emotion to another from both guys since their fate changes so drastically in several ways, and less maturity? I think I liked maturity better actually, and of course it is not all smooth sailing for them. I really liked that it took time for them to acknowledge their feelings for each other, but they did not behave like idiots all the time before that and in fact at least tried to be friends, most of the time. 🙂
I also really enjoyed how it took them time to learn how to deal with many political everyday matters and how they presented a united front so early and consistently. It was in many ways quite refreshing, although at the same time made me feel that both guys were a bit too perfect. Again, don’t get me wrong, they fight and bicker often; I just wondered sometimes whether in their situation they would not have fought more. Regardless, I liked them.
Another thing that I really enjoyed about this book was couple of secondary female characters, who had some meaning for the plot. Both Eleonor and Jinda had a great potential to be demonized because of their roles in the story, but the author avoided it very well and I enjoyed reading about both these women.
What did I not like? Well, as much as I do not like over-descriptive descriptions, I actually would have liked to know how Gair and Canan look. There are few hints here and there, but I was actually unable to figure out what the author intended them to look like. Unless she wanted to leave it completely to readers’ imagination, which I don’t mind at all (I certainly prefer that to over-descriptions, it was just a little strange is all).
What was stranger for me though is that I still don’t know either prince’s age. At first I thought that they are both eighteen, just because the book is YA, but then we learn that Cavan was fighting pirates for several years, and I did not think he started when he was ten, so I basically have no clue and decided to place them both in their early twenties.
I also do not like when an author makes things in their world to be very hard to pronounce, specifically places and some names of Cheil Empire. I am assuming the purpose was to make it distinct, but for me it was just annoying. For example, one of Cheil generals is called “Ondkinadjkil,” and we are also treated to the name “Ictvedarikinika – Madaisu.” My tongue hurts when I try to pronounce it, so I was thankful when Cheils shorten their names for everyday use. 🙂 We also have some bizarre names for the nobles at Cavan and Gair’s court. As such we have Duke GreenRose, Duke GoldRose, Duke BlueRose. I laughed when I read those names personally.
I do recommend the book despite my niggles.