A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.
Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.
The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?
Beth says 3.5 Stars...
The cover of this one absolutely sucked me in. The subtle fern pattern and fabulous-looking dagger gave me a case of the wants. Combine that with the blurb and the book starts ringing all of my bells - court intrigue, kick-ass heroine, magic, and a touch of romance. However, it didn't quite live up to my admittedly high expectations. The world building was really lovely, with a lush jungle land of darkness and magic. The book laid the framework of a complex society and world that I wanted to know more about. The plot moved along pretty briskly and attempted a few twists and turns. I was surprised a couple of times, but managed to guess most of the main reveals. Granted, even without the shock factor the plot kept me reading. It might not be the most original concept, but I still enjoyed it. One thing that I really wish Larson had examined in more depth was the breeding houses and the reasons behind their existence. It's a twist that I haven't seen before and one of the more original points of the novel.
Alex/Alexa has some good qualities, but I didn't find her incredibly compelling. I understand that her struggle to continue with her disguise as male and the difficulties it presents would be at the front of her mind constantly, but I found it super annoying. There was so much "is this how a boy would do it?" throughout the book. It also made it seem that any sort of reveal of her femininity equated with exposing weakness and I don't agree with that. I couldn't help comparing it to the first book in the Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce. While that remains one of my favorite series (full disclosure of bias here), I think it struck a balance with its lead character where she could maintain her disguise without thinking that anything feminine made her weak. Hopefully Alexa will exhibit some growth into her identity as the series progresses. The other members of the requisite love triangle were moderately well characterized. However, I really think there was a major flaw in how they were written. Mainly that they, in a culture that appears hypermasculine, fall for someone who is dressed like a guy. Shouldn't that cause some sort of internal discord? I wish that had been explored.
It's my hope that since this is the first in a series the subsequent books will improve. There's definitely potential for the series to grow, especially because this is Larson's debut novel. I wouldn't buy either this book or the next, but this is a series to consider borrowing from the library unless the next book is great or terrible.
ebook from library