I listened to this book almost in a single day — not necessarily because it was that amazing, though it was good. I just happened to have a lot of time to do busywork that day. I wouldn’t have downloaded it except that I was out of audible credits and it was free, and the cartoonish cover led me to believe I wouldn’t be listening for very long… I was pleasantly surprised at how good the writing was, how believable the characters, and how intricate the politics of this high fantasy world.
The story follows Lara, one of twenty daughters of a king of one nation (I forget what it’s called). Her father raised she and her half sisters in secret, though I never quite followed all the logic that she believed about why this was the case. They were trained to be warriors and assassins, and were kind of competing with one another in a “Bachelor” type of scenario for the best sister to be sent as wife to the king of an enemy nation, in fulfillment of a so-called peace treaty. The sisters were told that their prospective king-husband, Aren, was evil, as was his nation, oppressing their own people–and their job was to kill him.
What I didn’t quite follow was why Lara ever truly believed anything her father said. He clearly never loved any of the girls, and when the selection was made for her sister Marilynn, Lara overheard that he intended to murder her and all her sisters, leaving only Marilynn alive. Lara instead faked her sisters’ deaths, for their own good, so that her father would never seek them out again. She allowed herself to go as the prospective queen instead.
For some reason she continued to believe, despite this, that Aren’s people oppressed her own, and that her job was to kill him… but little by little she learns that he’s a good man, and that the political situation was a lot more complicated than that. She begins to fall in love with him and vice versa, even though she pretends to be a wilting violet and hides essentially everything about her history from her new husband. This of course sets up some massive, predictable misunderstandings and betrayals.
All of this was very well done, aside from the suspension of disbelief on why Lara remained duped for as long as she did. There are two main reasons why I don’t intend to read on in this series… the first is that, while I could overlook some sexual content (they are technically married from the moment Lara and Aren meet, after all), when they finally do consummate the marriage, the chapter is incredibly gratuitous–it probably would qualify as pornographic. It went ON and ON until I finally just skipped the rest of the chapter. Second, there’s a particular kind of narrative tension I absolutely *hate,* and it’s misunderstandings, where one character believes that another has betrayed him. The story ends with this, and it’s a long series, so I don’t know how long I’d have to endure the ongoing tension until it resolves, but I’m guessing quite awhile.
My rating: ***1/2
Language: there is some periodically… not over-the-top, but every word you can think of is there more than once
Violence: there but not gratuitous
Sexual content: waaaaay over the top, but at least most of it is only in one chapter. There’s some heavy innuendo throughout that I could have done without though.
Political content: fantasy only