Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Genre: YA, fantasy
A future chieftain
A fugitive prince
A too-cunning bodyguard
And one grumpy gray tabby
Fie abides by one rule: look after your own. As the future chieftain of a shunned caste of mercy-killers, she relies on her wits and bone magic—drawn from the teeth of dead witches—to protect her band. The Crows take more abuse than coin, so when they’re called to collect the royal dead, Fie hopes they’ll find the payout of a lifetime.
When Fie discovers that Crown Prince Jasimir and his crafty bodyguard, Tavin, have faked their deaths to escape the ruthless Queen Rhusana, she’s ready to cut her losses—and perhaps their throats. But Jas offers a deal that she can’t refuse: make sure he lives to see the throne, and he’ll protect the Crows when he reigns.
I picked this up because I’ve been slowly emerging from an awful reading slump and I generally go for YA in these situations, because I usually don’t have very high expectations from them, especially if it’s a debut. I’ve talked about this before. But I was also intrigued by the synopsis. I love me some bone magic. I’m happy to say I enjoyed this maybe more than I thought I would.
The writing is what I saw people have the biggest issue with. It’s a bit unusual, I’ll grant, but I didn’t mind. It was old fashioned. Like, words like ‘betwixt’ and ‘narry’ were used regularly. Also, the verb ‘to rut’ was used for more than just deer. It was a bit off-putting at first, but then I got used to it and it actually added to the whole vibe of the book. So I didn’t mind. It was otherwise a pretty well written book in my opinion.
The characters were okay. I didn’t love them, but I didn’t hate them either. I didn’t even mind the romance (which if you’ve been here for any length of time, you know I usually take issue with YA romances). It was somewhat insta-lovey, but there was at least an attempt to make the characters reasonable. I would have preferred it if they waited until at least the second book to get together at all. But alas, can’t have everything. It’s by no means a compelling romance, but I at least didn’t want to scream in frustration at it. And there was even the occasional chuckle at some of the dialogue. I also thought the dynamics between the other (non-romantically involved characters) was solid. Again, it wasn’t out of this world amazing, but I don’t really have any complaints about them.
I enjoyed the story. I thought it was fast paced and entertaining. It was actiony and I generally enjoy journey stories. I’ve heard people say that it was repetitive and I can see where they’re coming from, but I personally wasn’t bothered by it. It wasn’t so repetitive that it was boring, in my opinion. It wasn’t mind-blowing, or super original, but I found it to be a solid adventure story and I enjoyed it. I also liked the more overarching theme of oppression and the dynamics of a caste system.
My favourite aspect was the world. I thought it was really cool and I’m not sure if I will continue with this series or not, but if I ever do, it’s the world I’m most excited about. I liked the magic system and how it’s ties to the castes. I want to know more about the plague and also about the magic and the castes. Another thing I appreciated was that the diversity wasn’t super forced. I thought it was reasonably well integrated within the story and it didn’t grate and for the most part, I didn’t feel like it was trying to use diversity as a selling point. There was at least 1 character whose sexuality was 100% irrelevant to the story and could have just as well been left out, but I’m going to pick my battles.
Overall, I found it an enjoyable read. As I said, not sure yet whether I will continue with the series, but I did enjoy this one.