[A quick note: I got this book as part of a book box subscription from Fairyloot. It wasn’t super high on my radar, but the edition is beautiful, and my buddy read group decided to read it as our February read. I have a lot of mixed feelings about it, but it still got a high rating for me. I have a feeling it will be more enjoyable for a younger YA type audience.]
When her life threatening secret is discovered, Elspeth has no choice but to band together with a renegade group, and hunt down the twelve Providence Cards. If she doesn’t act quick, her infective magic will destroy her.
Dark, gothic fantasy is my JAM, y’all! This one was dripping with intrigue and a unique magic I’ve never seen before. The plot hooked me immediately. While the world building left a little to be desired, and I didn’t fully connect with the characters, I still really enjoyed it! Wait, wait, wait. What do I mean by “didn’t fully connect??” Let’s just put it this way, I didn’t really care if our main character Elspeth died. Okay, I feel like an a$$hole saying this??
The magic is based on “Providence Cards,” allowing the user to access certain abilities. Every card had a cost, opposite the magic it created. Each of these costs is outlined in a book, written to help the citizens of Blunder understand everything they need to know about the cards. This aspect was fully fleshed out, and very believable. I loved that cards could be stolen, allowing others to access magic. In most books, magic is something inherent to a specific individual, but not so here. This idea created a new, fresh take. Bravo!!!
The plot was built around collecting all twelve providence cards. Doing so would free the isolated kingdom of Blunder. And so, our infected heroine, Elspeth, helps a renegade band steal all twelve cards, at great cost. There is plenty of suspense as these thefts are carried out. Meanwhile, the king is hunting down and killing all those who have magic (infected), and Elspeth is one of those, putting her in immense danger of discovery.
The other thing I found unique, was all the poetry and writings around the cards themselves. When the cards were made, a book was also crafted, explaining their uses. It was written in a poetry format. The start of each chapter begins with a catchy, poetic excerpt from this book. Most times, I liked it, but a few times, I found myself skipping over the words. All in all, it was a unique addition.
Okay, now, on to the negatives. The city of Blunder, ruled for centuries by the Rowan kings, is isolated from the rest of the world. People cannot go out into the mists, or they go mad and disappear. So, the city is closed off, and people must carry charms, if ever they venture out. Sounds straight forward, right?
Wrong. There was a little TOO much suspension of disbelief required here. A kingdom, completely isolated, is going to suffer certain things. No trade? No mention of farming (the mists!), no mention of a shortage of specialty goods?? It felt a little too unbelievable that a city and its king, cut off from the rest of the world, could function seemingly normally, for five hundred years, without losses to certain ways of life. It just felt a little too…unrealistic. That was a world building flaw (paired with a few others). It could have been made realistic, but wasn’t.
And then, on top of that, I struggled to fully connect with the characters. Elspeth, in particular, made some very juvenile decisions. Namely, failing to hide a damning injury obtained while dressed in disguise, committing a crime. Allowing her injury to be discovered, ruined everything her band of rebels worked for. The entire plot hinged on this. It felt a little…too contrived. As if, the only way the plot would work, was if our MC made a SUPER STUPID decision. That was too forced for me.
But, despite all of this, the magic and plot really hooked me. The story ends on a cliff hanger, which infuriated me. I HATE CLIFF HANGERS. What was worse, this is my first higher star rating, where I enjoyed the book, but don’t have any desire to read the second. Thus, I will not be continuing with this series. I’m actually shocked by that, considering I enjoyed it. 𝑴𝒀𝑹𝑨𝑻𝑰𝑵𝑮: 𝟒/𝟓⭐️