(4.5/5 ⭐️) “Books were a reminder that the whole world wasn't a bleak tapestry of violence, and while she might never see anything beautiful again, at least she could read about kinder things. It was easier to breathe between the pages of a book.” In this dark fantasy, multiple character POVs are masterfully woven together as seamlessly as Ren welds silver.
Ren Kolins hides a dangerous ability, the ability to wield silver, a form of magic outlawed and purged from the kingdom of Erdis to ensure the royal family remained all powerful. Ever since the brutal murder of her parents, Ren has done her best to remain hidden, thieving, gambling, and fighting in the pits to survive. She’s got a hard way of life and an even harder heart, determined to push everyone away. But that changes when the rebellion recruits her, tempting her to join their ranks for a healthy sum of money as a reward. Meanwhile, the king’s brutal warriors known as King’s Children are hunting those in the rebellion, torturing them to get to the rebellion’s leader. This just so happens to be Derek, a tall, dreamy guy Ren doesn’t get along with. Their relationship is rocky from the start, and remains so throughout the book. But they have to learn to work together if they are to free Erdis from its tyranny. When Ren’s identity is discovered, and tensions reach a boiling point, the rebellion must act immediately or risk losing their foothold and all the work they did.
A HUGE round of applause for Jennifer Gruenke for a stellar debut novel! I so thoroughly enjoyed reading this dark fantasy. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough, especially because the multiple POVs left me eager for character after character.
The romance that develops between Ren and Derek was steamy and full of angsty fire. I love hate-to-love romances. The insults, banter, and dialogue. Mmmmm. It’s my cup of tea! This one did not disappoint. From the moment Ren and Dereck cross paths, they are throwing verbal daggers at each other.
Derek: “While people starve and suffer and die at the hands of a tyrant, you gallivant around Denfell, taking everything that doesn’t belong to you and nothing you deserve.”
But as they get to know one another, their thoughts and feelings change. There’s attraction from the beginning, but they struggle to get their minds on the same page about each other. Their romance development was something I thoroughly enjoyed while reading this story.
In terms of character development, I was disappointed in Ren’s lack of internal conflict. Where was her conflict? She was angry, and pushed people away. But I couldn’t tell what she actually wanted? She wanted money to pay back debt she owed, but that was superficial. What did she truly want, deep down? Why did her actions, the decisions she made, truly MATTER to her? She goes from not caring at all about the rebellion, to caring a little bit, but I didn’t really feel a huge change in her. I felt that her attempts at redemption were simply because Derek was asking her to do these things and because of the money involved. So that fell a little short for me. Character arc means a lot to me and is the difference between a 4 star and a 5 star read.
If anything, Adley Farre had a much greater internal conflict as a King’s Child. I felt that her character was crafted better than Ren’s. You could see her struggling when she was forced to torture people for information. You could see the difficulty even though she did it anyway. You could see that she wanted out, and that she loved Lessa and wanted a better future for the both of them. She was constantly fighting towards a goal that was driven by her own internal conflict. Moreover, she TOTALLY redeemed herself by switching sides. Sure, she was forced to. But she could have remained loyal and simply accepted her punishment. Instead, her love drove her to open her eyes and make the correct choice. She had a full character arc.
The world building was nice, but a smidge confusing. I had trouble making out the details. It was fantasy world, but it wasn’t a medieval one, because they had “sinks” with running faucets of water. I don’t even think that they had this in the Victorian era. Yet, it seemed old fashioned in other ways? So there was a little disconnect there in terms of technology advancement and all of that. You ride around in carriages but have kitchen sinks? Hmm...that’s fine, since it’s a fantasy world and anything goes. But...it’s a little unconventional and harder to adjust to. However, the magic system was great. I loved the idea of “silver welders” who can send wisps of silver to do things like create illusions, unlock doors, and even kill people, all controlled by hand movements. Magic systems are one of the main reasons I enjoy fantasy and this one definitely delivered.
The overall plot was done well, moved at a nice pace, and had a lot of closure. I enjoyed the story as a whole. The dialogue was awesome, the characters were fun and unique, and the ideas were fresh. All in all, it has been one of my top five favorite reads of 2020.
Thank you to NetGalley and Flux for the opportunity to review this book. This is an honest review in exchange for a copy.