Hello friends! I was sent a review copy of this absolutely gorgeous book by Hachette and I was so excited to read it. It was also the book included in my October Fairyloot, and I didn’t even mind having two copies!
I knew that this book had some trigger warnings: rape, abuse, animal cruelty/death, so I was preparing myself for those. But I was still super intrigued and looking forward to reading it.
In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.
Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.
I loved the world building that took place here. I loved the idea of the castes and how they were all visibly different. I just found the whole way these people interacted with each other to be highly interesting! I loved the infusion of Asian culture and loved how it seemed to draw numerous cultures into the one world. I loved the birth pendants they all received and how the word they contained led your life. It was such a great concept and a great world.
But I think the lead character may have let the rest of the story down. As much as I wanted to believe in Lei, I felt like her personality wasn’t shining through. There were some times when she would say something that I think was supposed to be completely in character for her, but it seemed so out of character while I was reading it. Part way through the book she referenced being one other girls best friend, and I had to stop and actually think if I’d ever realized they were ‘best friends’ – which to be honest, I hadn’t. I really wanted to like her. I did. But overall I just couldn’t believe her character. Wren, however, was a much more dynamic character. I almost wish the book had been written from Wren’s perspective because I think that would have given much more urgency to the story.
Personally, I also felt like there was a lack of political/royal intrigue. The girls being so close to the Demon King, I was hoping there would be a bit, just… MORE! While it was an intriguing read, it was not as intriguing as I had wished. The epilogue was fantastic though and definitely cemented this book as book one in a series. I will still most likely read the other books, just to see what happens, but this book itself only gets ⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of 5 stars.
Of course, make your own minds up about it, and you can grab a copy here 😊
Have you read this? Let me know your thoughts!!
Happy readings loves