Publisher: Harper Voyager
Published: Oct. 2, 2018
Source: From author for review
Gladiator meets Game of Thrones: a royal woman becomes a skilled warrior to destroy her murderous cousin, avenge her family, and save her kingdom in this first entry in a dazzling fantasy epic from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin series—an enthralling tale that combines magic, murder, intrigue, adventure, and a hint of romance.
In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.
But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.
Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of war, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.
But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.My thoughts:
This book came to me after a long reading slump so I admit I was a bit worried that I would have trouble really getting into the book. Honestly I had nothing to worry about... in fact I had a hard time putting this book down. It is also a great book to get into fantasy. A lot of the YA fantasy lately has really made the fantasy genre accessible to those that worried that it was just too heavy handed for them. However, this didn't solve the problem if you just didn't like YA. This book is the best of both worlds. It is accessible as the YA fantasy but the main characters are adult.
I also loved the characters in how they grew throughout the book. Evie, our protagonist, is young but she is an adult and one that is open to change and hardship. She might complain at first but she quickly learns that survival is only part of her journey. She also learns that the inane skills she learned as being the court stand-in surprisingly work to her advantage and make herself valuable. I really love how those things worked into her survival and it also felt very natural.
I think my only complaint is that I would like to have really gotten to know a bit more about this world. While there is enough to tell this tale it also seems like so many of the realms called out to me and I just wanted to know more. However, this might be a good thing as most people tend to shy away from fantasy that is mostly worldbuilding and little storytelling. This feels more like a UF story where we get more of the worldbuilding as the story progresses. In fact a lot of it feels a bit more UF than high fantasy but since I love UF it really works for me.
I don't want to say too much as I fear I would spoil the book but I do give it 5 stars. I will say again that this is the fantasy I had been waiting to read; the accessibility of YA fantasy but has adult characters. I think this is a great book for those that want to try the fantasy genre.