Firstly, huge thanks to BooksGoSocial and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Publication Date: 28/02/2020
Length: 482 pages
CW: sexual assault
Born the bastard daughter of a painted lady, Marilia was told she would live out her days within the walls of her mother’s brothel, a companion for the rich men of Tyrace. But after a terrible betrayal, Marilia’s world turns upside down. With the help of her twin brother, Annuweth, she flees the only home she’s ever known in search of the one man who can offer her a chance at a better life–the Emperor of Navessea’s greatest general, a friend of her deceased father.GoodReads
What follows is a journey spanning years, from the streets of the desert city of Tyracium to the splendor of the emperor’s keep and the wind-swept, wild island of Svartennos. Along the way, Marilia discovers, for the first time, the gift she has for strategy and warfare—a world that is forbidden to girls like her.
When the empire is threatened by a foreign invasion, the defense of Navessea is left in the hands of a cruel and arrogant general no match for the empire’s enemy. With the fate of her new home and her family hanging in the balance, Marilia swears to use all her courage and cunning to do whatever she can to help repel the invasion—if she can convince anyone to follow her.
The struggle that follows will test her to her core and lead her back to the past she thought she had escaped. Facing treachery within her own ranks as well as a devious enemy commander, Marilia will need all the help she can get, even if it means doing something her brother may never forgive—making a deal with the man who murdered her father.
I do love a strong female protagonist in my fantasy novels and this novel definitely delivered on that front! Although fantasy novels are one of my preferred genres, I do have a bit of a complicated relationship with fantasy novels (which will have to be the subject of another post!). So, whilst I was drawn in by the description of this novel, I was also a little apprehensive. However, I quickly realised my worries were unfounded.
Straight away I just loved Marilia. She was a brilliant protagonist and it was great seeing her grow up throughout the novel. The fact that she has a brother too allows you to see how they both develop and how unique their personalities are, which was a really nice touch with the book. I found myself getting angry on Marilia’s behalf when she was told that she couldn’t do certain things because she is a girl, regardless of whether she was better at something than her brother. However, despite Marilia being excellent with strategy and very sharp I enjoyed that you also saw her struggle with things. You’re reminded that she isn’t perfect and she is still young. In addition to Marilia, I think the rest of the characters were also well developed. I particularly liked Ben Espeleos and his family. Although, sometimes a character will disappear or not mentioned for a while which made them sometimes feel like an after thought. However, this is the first in a trilogy so it is likely that they will come back in the other installments.
For the most part I think the pacing was really well done in the novel and you see the characters in each new setting long enough for them to really make an impression on you. I also liked how the novel didn’t just stick to one or two places as it gave a better idea of how big this world is, especially as this is the first novel set here. By having the novel in three parts the story felt very focused, not only did you have a clear idea on what was going on but you were shown the key parts of their lives that shaped Marilia and Annuweth. I thought the battle sequences were also well written and easy to follow, which is something I sometimes struggle the most with when it comes to fantasy novels!
As you can see, I really enjoyed this novel! Whilst this novel does work well as a stand-alone, I will definitely be picking up the next book in the series as I really want to spend some more time with these characters! This book is currently free on kindle, so you have no excuse not to give this novel a read!