[A quick note: I tend to review a lot of books that are 4 and 5 star reads. These books spoil me. I picked up this one, eager to review it as an advanced reader, purely based on cover and premise. It was from a new author, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Needless to say I was disappointed, but fortunately it finished strong so at least it didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.]
Releases July 21st 2020!!
(3/5⭐️)“How was I going to find my place in a new land when I couldn’t find a place among my own people? How would I keep my magic a secret under the scrutiny of an entire new kingdom?”—KayLynn Flanders
Princess Jenna has been hiding a secret that could kill her. Her older brother wasn’t the only one born with magic, but he’s the only one who knows. When she is sent to a neighboring country, promised to a prince she’s never met, everything falls apart. Jenna’s entourage is attacked, and she barely escapes with her life. The Wild isn’t safe, but it helps strengthen her. And once she reaches Turia, it’s clear she’s being hunted. She must pose as a guard using a fake identity, and hope the king of Turia allows her to find much needed answers about the mages who are after her. These mages are intent on eliminating her family, as well as the royal family in Turia, and reclaiming power. Jenna must decide if revealing her true identity is worth protecting the royal family of Turia and saving them from the mages who intend on destroying the peace.
I selected this book because of the beautiful cover and the premise. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Coming away, I’ve got a lot of mixed feelings. There were things I liked and things I didn’t like. I’ll start with the things I liked. The second half was an enjoyable read. I enjoyed the interactions between Prince Enzo and Princess Jenna. I liked that they got to know each other before knowing their true identities. It allowed a love to blossom between them without any pretenses.
I also liked the magic system. It was interesting. Jenna begins believing she only has a small bit of magic in the form of emotional tethers with her family, and in time, gets much more due to the artifacts her father gives her, and also because of the Wild. I was intrigued but I didn’t feel the magic system was fleshed out as well as it could have been. There were still bits of confusion for me. But the same was for Jenna, so maybe since we were seeing it from her POV, there wasn’t more information that could be given.
The relationship between Enzo, his sisters, and Jenna was one of my favorite things about the book. Jenna‘s brother dies, or so she believes, and Enzo’s sisters begin to fill that hole. His youngest sister was one of my favorite characters. I liked their interactions and enjoyed the trust that developed between them. It really helped rescue this book from dropping below 3 stars.
The plot was riddled with tropes, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But overall, there wasn’t a lot of depth. For a YA, that’s okay, but it lends to mediocrity. I would have liked to see more suspense and political intrigue. But overall, I liked the idea of Princess Jenna taking up a false identity to protect Enzo’s royal family.
Now, on to the negatives, for which there were a fair few:
I found a number of flaws with this book. The beginning was too slow. The first half was a chore to get through. This was due to lack of suspense from the outset. Not much was foreshadowed. Things happening came up like an afterthought. I didn’t feel invested in any of the characters and had to force myself to keep reading. Moreover, I think the first 25% of the book could be deleted. The story could have started with the attack on Jenna on the road, with bits and pieces filled in afterward as she is traveling through the Wild. I would have been more invested in solving the story that way, filling in clues. Instead, nothing was left to me to discover, and I was told everything.
I felt nothing when Jenna’s family died. I wasn’t invested in them. While Jenna was sad, none of that rubbed off on me. That tells me those characters didn’t make enough of an impression. They should have been kept out of the story at the beginning. I probably would have appreciated them more through Jenna’s memories. Instead, I had to dredge through 25% of a story that felt entirely pointless.
There was no suspense until Jenna met the prince at the 50% mark. I was SO CLOSE to putting down the book at that point. SO CLOSE! I loved that she used a false identity. Only then did the suspense blossom. I read more eagerly after that, wondering when the prince would learn her identity, and wondering if she would be able to help their family safe. At that point, the story read very quickly (THANK GOODNESS!), and the suspense increased. I FINALLY found myself caring. FINALLY. Had I DNF’d beforehand, I would have missed out on the rest of the story.
But, the lesson to be learned is this: It shouldn’t take half a book to get invested. To me, that was a huge flaw. I was convinced this would be a 2.5 star read until I hit the 50% mark. My only reason for patience was because this was a book I’m reviewing for NetGalley.
The story ends on a cliff hanger making it obvious that there will be a sequel. Will I read it? Honestly, I’m not sure. If it picks up immediately at the same pace, maybe. Even still, with the second half being much better, I’m still not sure I’m that invested in the characters. They don’t have much depth. So I probably won’t be reading it. We’ll see.
Do I recommend this? Meh. There are far better books out there. BUT you might like it if you like royalty faking identities. If that’s something that appeals to you, I’d say give it a try. This might be the book for you.
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Children’s for the eARC copy in exchange for an honest review.