I bought this and then received an ARC of Juniper & Thorn, so this sat on the back burner. Though I’m glad I read the Juniper & Thorn first. I initially thought we would end on a cliffhanger and need to await a book 2. But it was neatly packaged for the reader in too short a time.
I confess this took me a while to get into. The pace was a tad slow, and I was still getting the lay of the land. Évike sure holds in a lot of laughs, doesn’t she? There are quite a few repeated such actions, and we’re often focused on everyone’s cheeks. Évike had a major case of Stockholm Syndrome going on with her village because she wanted nothing but to be back there, to return to being physically and verbally abused by everyone in the village. I couldn’t make sense of the why. The world is open with opportunities, and she just wants to run back there.
This book is a mix of everything. There was oppression, racism, and religious extremism that were fairly well explored. It’s a bit gory, sometimes gothic, with magical elements that make it fun. I liked the combined mythology throughout the story. But the pace held the book back from what could have been. But I think there are more great books in store from this author, and I look forward to reading them.
About the Book
In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.
But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.
As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.