This is one that I picked up because I liked the spine. That was my only reasoning. It was a fiver in the Waterstones sale because it had a decimated dust jacket, but it didn’t matter because I like the red lettering on the spine.
“In the ancient river kingdom, touch is a battlefield, bodies the instruments of war. Seventeen-year-old Mia Rose has pledged her life to hunting Gwyrach: women who can manipulate flesh, bones, breath, and blood.
Not women. Demons. The same demons who killed her mother without a single scratch.
But when Mia’s father suddenly announces her marriage to the prince, she is forced to trade in her knives and trousers for a sumptuous silk gown. Only after the wedding goes disastrously wrong does she discover she has dark, forbidden magic—the very magic she has sworn to destroy.”
Blurb from Goodreads because I can’t figure a better way to summarise it.
Ok, first off – the benefit of only picking this up because I liked the lettering style on the hardcover is that I had absolutely zero expectations going in. I needed something easy going, so I picked this. And, in a way, this book did fulfil that purpose. This is really trope heavy. You have the girl who’s on a quest for revenge, has been training for three years to become a medical encyclopaedia/huntress suddenly finding out that she is one of the very creatures she has been hunting, and Everything She Knows Is Wrong. Then she goes on the run with her husband/the snarky prince/are they really married though and boy he isn’t as horrid as she though he was now they’re away from the castle. The prince is actually A Decent Guy. Mia’s mother had Secrets (and a magic, reveal when I want to diary) and Backstory, and Mia is angry because She Never Knew Her At All. You know, pretty standard stuff.
The first … maybe half to two thirds of the book were… hard going. I willingly put the book down to go to sleep because I was getting really annoyed with Mia and whatever the Prince dude’s name was. Mia has this habit of switching perfectly fine words out for unnecessarily technical ones. It’s a bit like an infodump on the human body every couple of sentences, and it’s largely unnecessary. So what if she knows the fancy medical term for things? The most interesting character (to me) was the prince’s sister, Karri, who is awesome but barred from the throne for the misfortune of being born female. There is a bit, in this medieval feudal style fantasy world, where they find a magic hot air balloon. That is where I noped out and went to sleep. The last third of the book was pretty good though, so I’m glad I stuck it out in the end.
The overwhelming theme of the River Kingdom is that the King is a horrible, woman hating person. He collects the hands of these demon-women (some of which are children) and burns them as candles (just in case his restrictive policies to “protect” women didn’t clue you in that he isn’t a good guy: ref, women must wear gloves at all time, just in case they are these magic wielding dangers to society and women cannot sell at the market). When they move out of the River Kingdom, and into Refugis (take a wild guess at what this township is) then it switches from a patriarchy to a matriarchy – the women are allowed to learn and use their magic powers for good, rather then the evil that the King pontificates. I confess, I think the book picked up here – when Mia started being able to read her mothers backstory, and stopped being quite so angsty teen Woe Is Me.
For all my adding Unnecessary Capitals to emphasize how tropey this was, it’s a bit like putting on a warm jumper on a cold day in that it was easy and it was comforting and it was a short little burst of “this is cool” but is instantly forgettable once the book has closed. So while this review seems super negative, (and long, wow I do go on, don’t I?) it wasn’t that bad of a book…it’s just sickly and sticky. Fab premise, I loved the LGBTQ rep (There was a couple of lesbian couples, at least one gay guy and one of the main characters is bisexual) and that its this story about some women having power and supporting the sisterhood ect. So, there were good bits too! It’s just that the first half felt like such hard going. It could have done with a bit more editing – and editing out a few of the tropes…I’m not reading the second one, unless the spine is pretty for that one as well. Sucker for awesome lettering, me.