Stars: 3.5 out of 5.
I liked the idea behind this book better than the execution, but it was still an enjoyable read all in all.
Raine in particular is an interesting character with a lot of flaws and a lot of trauma in her past, who manages to stay relatable. I loved her character arc and her emotional growth throughout this book. From a young girl who constantly doubts her worth and her place in the world, who has been told over and over that she isn’t worth anything, to a young woman who knows exactly who she is, who her friends are, and what she believes in. And who is willing to stand up and fight for that, even if by doing so she is risking her life.
However, I found that the middle of the book feels a bit draggy, because a lot of things happen to Raine instead of being instigated by her. She’s basically floating along the narrative flow from right after the battle at the monastery to the part where she chooses to rescue her friend from his kidnappers. I understand why it was done this way, and it is justified, narratively speaking. But it makes for a rather dull read. Since Raine herself doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life and just kind of exists day to day, the reader feels like none of the events happening have any meaning. We don’t know what’s important because Raine doesn’t care about anything.
But once Raine finally decides where her place is and what’s important to her, she becomes a really wonderful character – she takes action, she makes tough choices, and she emerges victorious out of what seemed like an impossible situation. I will be curious to see how her life with evolve going forward, now that her big secret is known by several people who aren’t trying to kill her for it.
The worldbuilding is also rather fascinating. It reminds me of Scotland and England back in the middle ages when the Scot were subjugated by the English. Raine comes form the highlands, there is talk of clans, and the scenery is reminiscent of what I’ve seen in Scotland. There is also talk of moon horses that sounds a bit like kelpies, and hidden folk, the fae, etc. I would like to explore this world more, learn more of its secrets.
I wasn’t as excited with the side characters. The characterizations there aren’t as well-done as Raine. Half the time we had just hints and sketches of character without full definition. Granted, a lot of it steams from the fact that we see this story through Raine’s eyes, and she’d been emotionally shunted for most of the book. It was hard for her to empathize with other or care enough to pay close attention to them. But even the people she seems interested in aren’t as well-defined as I would have liked them to be.
Also, while I can believe into the motivation of the main villain in the story, I find it hard to believe that he was powerful enough to mind control so many of his followers. So does this mean that some of them followed him willingly even though all he wanted was petty revenge? Or was he so good of a liar that nobody suspected anything until the very end? Then why at least some of them didn’t turn on him after his grand speech in the cavern when the truth came out? Why were they willing to still die for him?
All in all tough, this book accomplished what a first book in a new series should do – it introduced and interesting world that readers want to explore more. It introduced a compelling protagonist that I wouldn’t mind following for a few more books. And it told an interesting story. It also didn’t leave us with a cliffhanger, thank the havens. All the questions relating to this particular story were answered by the end of the book while leaving enough unsaid that I am excited about picking up the next installment.
PS: I received an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.