It’s not often that I read a book that’s able to surprise me—in a good way—and this book did it.
The characters are richly drawn and real and true, but true in a way that most books don’t offer, which is true to their hearts. Dennaleia and Mare come together as Denna is supposed to marry Mare’s brother, but they end up becoming friends, and then falling for each other. This is the way, usually, that those things happen, but they way they’re never described in literature, usually, because people are afraid to be honest about the way those things happen.
Told in a dual point-of-view style, this story of friends who become lovers covers a country and includes a bit of magic, which of course is always fun, except in this case, magic is not looked on as good.
Throughout the book, Coulthurst develops tension not only through Dennaleia’s discovery of her secret magical abilities, alongside the burgeoning tensions between Mynaria and other less friendly kingdoms, but also the developing relationship between Mare and Denna. The best part of the book is, the people around them find absolutely nothing wrong with Denna and Mare’s relationship—other than, of course, the fact that Denna was supposed to marry Mare’s brother. Relationships between men and men, women and women, are just as common as relationships between men and women.
In this time when we are now so worried about the normalization of the hateful behaviors so present in the news, it would be so nice to see more novels and stories like this, in which love in all forms is normalized, so that people would not be afraid to share their love to the world. After all, we could use a bit more love to go around all the time—especially now. Coulthurst wrote a beautiful story about magic and love, which are truly the things that keep the world going round.
An atmospheric and romantic debut fantasy perfect for fans of Ash and The Winner’s Curse.
Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile kingdoms. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a land where magic is forbidden.
Now Denna has to learn the ways of her new kingdom while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine, sister of her betrothed.
When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, they discover there is more to one another than they thought—and soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.
But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.