Thank you to Hodderscape for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
In an empire on the brink of war…
Ahn is no one, with no past and no family.
Altan is a lost heir, his future stolen away as a child.
When they meet, Altan sees in Ahn a path to reclaiming the throne. Ahn sees a way to finally unlock her past and understand her arcane magical abilities.
But they may have to pay a far deadlier price than either could have imagined.
I was so excited to read this as it sounded like exactly my type of book and while I did enjoy it mostly I was a little disappointed by it. This had great potential to be amazing but the execution just wasn’t quite there. That isn’t to say that it’s a bad book, I know that a lot of people will enjoy it I just wanted that bit more, especially when it came to the characters.
The story itself is interesting, but everything happens so conveniently and quickly that there’s no build up or tension considering the story and the powers that Ahn has. Evey new aspect to the story and any trouble that the characters get into is resolved so quickly and easily that I never felt worried for them when I should have. The ending with the climax was so rushed and the time jumps that skipped over parts left me feeling underwhelmed. The beginning was slow especially the travelling parts and I feel that this should have been reduced to extend the climax more and give us more answers because I was left with a lot of answers for a book that is standalone. It was great to see Chinese folklore inspired elements in the book though.
When it comes to the characters, I actually liked the side characters more than the main characters. Ahn confused me because she just so easily accepted everything that was told to her without me but refused to trust the one person that was actually trying to look out for her. Altan was so busy trying to get revenge that he was either brooding or pining for Ahn while also denying said feelings. His revenge wasn’t very thought out because he didn’t want to become emperor but was happy to create a power vacuum which would absolutely lead to war and cause more suffering. Their romance was also rushed and had no substance, I didn’t feel any chemistry between them or felt like I should root for them. It was interesting to see how the choices they made resulted in the events at the end of the book. And they both learn how the history they are taught is not always the full truth.
My favourite character was Leiye and I just want to know more about him and his past. We aren’t given any answers about why he chose to help Ahn and I want to know more about him. I also liked all the other side characters too but again wish we had been given more information about them. There was a lot that wasn’t explained about any of them which left me just wanting more answers than feeling satisfied when I finished.
This book didn’t work for me, maybe because I have read a lot of fantasy so my expectations were higher but I do think that anyone that wants to start reading fantasy would enjoy this book and younger teens would too.