I received this ARC from Netgalley for an honest review!
CW: sexism, slavery, and attempted rape
I’m so conflicted about this book.
On one hand, I really liked this and thought it was a solid book with an interesting plot and fun characters. On the other hand, I thought it lacked pacing and the story got very lost.
To make this a bit more clear, I’m splitting this book in half and I’m going to review each half of the book. There was such a stark difference between the first half and the second half that it really needs to be done that way.
The first half, I would give 4 stars. Maia had three older brothers. Two died and the other just came back from war very injured. Her father is a tailor but is really struggling to make ends meet and she has to step in. So, when someone from the palace comes, demanding that her father come to compete in a tailoring competition, Maia decides to pretend to be her older brother who is back from war and go in his place.
I really loved the family dynamics. I found them so interesting and I genuinely would have liked a little bit more of Maia with her family.
Once she got to the palace, I really loved the challenges that Maia had to go through with the competition and the conversation about gender restrictions that happened periodically with another character.
That character is Edan. He’s the emperor’s enchanter. No one really likes him, but he takes a real interest in Maia. Now, I liked him. I thought he was cool and the banter he and Maia had was so nice. I really loved their friendship. I need more friendships in books rather than straight to romance.
The only thing I didn’t love was the pacing. It was very slow. Granted, it worked. The slower pace gave time to set up the relationships that would go into the second half of the book and the challenges really shone. Still, I would have like a bit of a quicker pace.
Then, we got to the second half. I’m giving that 2 stars. My entire mood throughout the second half of the book is encapsulated by this gif.
It was just such a pain to get through and I wound up skimming.
Instead of Maia staying at the palace, she goes on some journey/quest/adventure. With Edan. I didn’t mind that change of events — although I found the palace intrigues more interesting in hindsight — but it was a surprise.
What came as no surprise to me was that the friendship Edan and Maia had turned into a romance. I have no interest in it. There were so many cheesy quotes, though. So many cringe-y YA romance quotes. Like this gem: (And remember that quotes are liable to change in the final, published copy!)
I knew that we were like two pieces of cloth, sewn together for life. Our stitches couldn’t be undone.
I wouldn’t let them.
Not only that, but the romance took place of the quest. It would have been hella cool, but the pacing was so off. The romance was slow and there was a lot of time focused on the romance that the actual quest/journey got forgotten. Each little challenge was quickly written to get back to the romance.
Now, I’m very sure that I’ll be the one with the unpopular opinion about the romance. I just had no interest in it and didn’t think that the story needed it. As I said, I want more books with friendships in them rather than it always having to be a relationship.
All of that being said, I don’t think this book needs to be a series. If the story was tweaked just a little bit, it would have been a great stand-alone book and I might have some nicer things to say about it. Yes, I enjoyed it, but there was such a stark difference between the halves of the book that it left a bad taste in my mouth. Will I continue with the series? I don’t know. What I do know is that I didn’t like where the story went.
Have you read this? What did you think?
What books have had unnecessary romances in them for you?