This book has become one of my favourite reads of the year! I loved it so much!
Synopsis from Goodreads:
For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts Malik’s younger sister, Nadia, as payment into the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.
But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.
When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?
This book was incredible, the wonderfully complex characters and the phenomenal world building and I just loved how the mythology was woven into the story. This book is beautiful inside and out.
We are told the story from both Karina and Malik’s point of view and I just loved both of them so much. They both go through a lot in this book and have such wonderful character arcs and great development. Karina has so much self doubt but by the end she realises and understands herself so much better and what she is capable of and Malik as well who just wants to protect his sisters sees that he can do that and so much more.
Malik is a cinnamon roll and I fell in love with him immediately. He loves and cares about his sisters and wants to protect them but also makes mistakes which made him feel very real and relatable. One of the reasons I fell in love with him was because he wasn’t the usual broody alpha males. He was soft but still had incredible strength, he had determination and yet he was soft spoken and patient and kind and I just love him so much. Please give me more soft boys in fantasy books!
He also suffers from panic attacks and to see that in a fantasy book was so wonderful to see. Especially as at the beginning he sees his anxiety and panic attacks as a weakness yet by the end he realises that it has made him stronger and that he is capable of doing more than people think he can because he battles his own self and is able to overcome that. As someone who has panic attacks I loved seeing this and how it was portrayed in the book.
Karina was another wonderful character and so complex, she is driven by getting justice for her mother and maybe even bringing her back but doing so will have huge consequences and that is something she struggles with throughout the story. Her knowing that she needs to do what is best for her people as opposed to what she wants. She is so driven and yet she has so many doubts about her own ability and yet she is so capable and learns so much about herself and what she can do. I loved how sassy she was and her tentative relationship with Malik was so wonderful to see and how because of what she had to do to get her mother and then adding Tunde into the mix made things even more complicated.
Karina also suffers from severe migraines and again this was so refreshing to see in a fantasy book. It’s not something you usually see and I loved that we got to see how much it affects her. She can pass out and needs total darkness and the representation was so great and realistic. Again we see that while it is debilitating she eventually realises that she is still capable despite her migraines and more capable than people assume her to be.
The other characters were also really interesting too but what I really loved was how the folklore and mythology was woven into the story and into the history of the world. The secrets that are kept from Karina and the secrets that both of them keep from each other and the consequences of these and outside forces that they aren’t even aware of, leads to everything that happens at the end which left me needing the next book immediately!
This book is so wonderful and I completely fell in love with it and I need Karina and Malik to be okay in the sequel. I highly recommend reading this book, you will not regret it!