[A quick note: I purchased this special edition set from The Bookish Box before having read it. I don’t do this often, but the series had a lot of praise and it was on my TBR. I was nervous, knowing that if I didn’t enjoy it, I would have to sell it. But, great news, I’m now very happy that I made this purchase! It’s also really fun finding another author whose story I can relate to. Elise Kova wrote and published this for her fans and it’s as her first ever series, which kicked off her writing career.]
A story set in a library within a castle?? Hello! A morally gray prince and a mousy librarian who discovers she has magic?? Hello! Join Vhalla as she grapples with her new magic and faces forces determined to undermine her.
I always love a book with heart-twisting moments that make me fall in love with the story. This was one of those. It was a very fun YA fantasy with an authentic feel you don’t get in a lot of traditional published books, which can, at times, feel cookie cutter. This was NOT that! While there were a few moments that felt a little contrived, the overall emotion and plot had me flying through pages.
My favorite aspect of the story was the crowned prince. He was genuinely morally gray with questionable motivations. I’m all about morally gray characters. HELLO!! Because he’s so mysterious, I couldn’t get enough of him. I especially loved the way Vhalla and Aldrick were tied together from the beginning. I appreciated the mentor/apprentice relationship struck between them. For me, it was their relationship that carried the story.
The pacing was great and held my interest. I didn’t feel bored, and I appreciated the way it progressed. The tension mounted steadily over the whole book until the action at the end when it EXPLODED. I devoured this book, especially the last twenty percent which had my heart racing.
Considering this was Elise Kova’s debut novel, I am so impressed. The majority of my star rating comes from how the book gripped me. Because honestly, there wasn’t a whole lot that differentiated the world building or writing overall. Which makes it hard to put my finger on why I enjoyed it SO MUCH!
I did have a few things that demoted my star rating. I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds. There were a few moments that felt a bit juvenile. My biggest gripes were two things:
First, towards the beginning, Vhalla’s opinion on magic didn’t really hit me hard. I couldn’t understand why she was so against it, especially when she found out she was a Windwalker. The story could have benefited from a more personal explanation as to why. It took a lot of time before I gathered that magic was scorned by most people. If something bad had happened to Vhalla (or a loved one) in her childhood involving magic, the entire motivation behind her dislike, distrust, and overall apprehension might have made more sense. Instead, it felt almost forced into the plot. Something to drag the story on, something that the ENTIRE story hinged on, which was why her motivations felt weak and difficult to believe (making her seem juvenile).
Second, the ending sequence around the trial was a little confusing. I struggled to understand what kind of a government was used, and why the CROWNED PRINCE couldn’t do anything to help. Was this a limited monarchy? Do the rulers not actually have any authority? Are they just figureheads? It seemed like the senate held all the power. But that wasn’t totally clear. I found myself a little confused, wondering if these blurry rules were written to conveniently create tension that wasn’t totally realistic regarding how things might actually be done in a monarchy. It just felt a little…mushy.
Despite having issues, I enjoyed the story so much that it was easy to mostly overlook them. Even if I did find myself rolling my eyes a few times. Hah!
TLDR: This book was fun and I can’t wait to continue with the rest of the series!
𝐌𝐘 𝐑𝐀𝐓𝐈𝐍𝐆: 𝟒.𝟓/𝟓⭐️