Thank you to Hodder and Stoughton and netgalley for this arc in exchange for an honest review.
I loved this book so much! And I cannot wait for the sequel!
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.
Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.
Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.
This book was such a wonderful read. The world building is vivid and imaginative and just so lush that you could really see the world in your head. I absolutely love when books have such vivid descriptions. I loved that we got to travel to several places in the world with Shiori and I loved the folklore and mythology woven into the story.
This is a story of family bonds and sibling love and how sometimes we may not understand the motives behind something that someone we love does but that it may not always be what it seems. A story of self-development and learning how our actions can affect others and to what lengths we will go to, to protect those we love.
When we first meet Shiori she was rash and didn’t consider how her actions may affect other people. She was sheltered and because of this was always yearning for a life outside the palace she lived in and not truly appreciating what she had. I found her a bit childish at first but I loved her character arc and growth throughout the book. I also loved seeing her relationship with her brothers and how they collectively cared for and looked out for each other. But I especially loved seeing how they each had their own special relationship with Shiori. It felt so real and relatable and I love seeing loving sibling relationships in books. It was one of my favourite parts of the book seeing how they joked and had fun but also looked out for each other and how Shiori was willing to go through dangerous situations for them and they risked being killed to help her.
The story starts with Shiori escaping meeting her betrothed and ending up meeting a dragon who decides to help her and someone we meet several times in the book. She has magic which is forbidden in her kingdom and is discovered by her stepmother who banishes her and turns her brothers into cranes. The banishment means that no one will recognise Shiori or her brothers so they can’t get help from anyone. Her brothers only become human again at night so during the day they fly to different places in search of answers while Shiori has to build a magical net to help her fight her stepmother. Things are even more complicated because of one part of the banishment which could be deadly for her brothers.
At first it may seem like a straightforward story with an evil stepmother and the children of the king saving their father but not all is as it seems and is the villain truly the stepmother or someone or something else? I was completely hooked watching the story unravel and slowly piecing things together as Shiori learns more about everything happening and who is trying to overthrow her father. We learn more about her stepmother and their relationship and we also learn about her betrothed.
Takkan was a breath of fresh air. I loved him from the moment we are introduced to him and we see that he is nothing like Shiori imagined him to be. He is kind and sweet and caring and I loved his relationship with his little sister. She was such a wonderful character and I loved her friendship with Shiori. Seeing Shiori slowly warm to Takkan and Takkan caring for Shiori even while thinking she is just a maidservant. I loved Shiori and Takkan so much and just how much he loves Shiori and is only truly open and vulnerable with her. I cannot wait to see more of him in the sequel.
I absolutely loved this book and the character driven story but also weaving mythology and forbidden magic into the story and the hints we get about where the sequel may take us, I am so excited to know what will happen next!