Stars: 3 out of 5
It would be a mistake to call this book the second in this series, because it’s not a continuation of book one. More of a prequel, actually. But that’s not explained until the epilogue, so I experienced a sense of confusion when I started reading this. In book 1, we were following Nisha who was heading for the capital. This books stars with a completely different character, and there is no mention of Nisha until, yet again, the epilogue. So I spent a good while wondering how the two books were related instead of just enjoying the story for what it was. I think if that was mentioned upfront, my satisfaction with this book would have been better.
Now, as far as the story itself goes, it’s typical YA fare, but on the better side of the spectrum. At least we aren’t tortured with the dreaded love triangle in this one. My problem is that I found the supporting characters more interesting than the two protagonists.
Let’s be honest, for someone who trained for four years to be a bodyguard, and who is a weretiger to boot, Mara really sucks at her job. I can’t remember even one instance when she successfully protected her charge in this book. The tiger to tiger confrontation at the end of the book doesn’t count, because the author was leading towards it almost since the beginning. When I look back at Mara’s actions in this book, all I can remember is her standing there in impotent rage when her charges are being endangered, or struggling with her tiger instincts and needing a rescue of her own. Honestly, she is more a damsel in distress in this book than a protector, and that’s frustrating.
I liked Emil slightly better, and he gets progressively better as the book goes on, once he finally stands up to his father and realizes what is important to him.
I didn’t particularly like the instalove story between Mara and Emil either. They talked twice. He gave her a gift. Suddenly, they can’t stop thinking about each other, and he is the only person who can prevent her from turning when she is hurt. Yeah, nope, not for me.
The side characters are a lot more interesting than those two! I would have loved to see more of Rhivati and her grandmother. Especially, her grandmother! And the tea vendors! What an amazing concept! I would love to read a book about them and their unofficial “king”. As it stands, they are a woefully underutilized concept. Same goes for the Jade caste.
As it stands, I found that the story resolution was a little bit too easy and convenient. With the bad people one-dimensionally villainous, and the good people one-dimensionally good and forgiving. And it seems like a lot got glossed over in the end as well. Emil and his brother actively participated in a plot to overthrow the Emperor, yet they were not judged or tried for it. The main conspirator fled the city, yet there is no mention of anyone looking for him and bringing him to justice. It almost feels like the Emperor didn’t care. “Ha-ha, my city got invaded and a lot of people died, oh, and I’m one heir short now, but no worries, life goes on.” This was honestly unfulfilling.
Also, I don’t agree with the ending. Having Rhivati conveniently die to release Mara from her oath so that she can go have a happy ever after with Emil is the worst copout I’ve seen in a while. Why even make her take that oath in the first place? I would have loved to see her struggle with her duties to Rhivati and her love for Emil, who can’t remain in the city without renouncing his people and his way of life. How would they have maintained their relationship against these odds? That would have been a book worth reading.
PS: On the plus side, at least now we know who Nisha’s parents are.