The first thing I would like to draw your attention to: this beautiful cover. There’s just something so simple yet beautiful about it, and it just makes me really happy. I was really excited to read this book when it first came out, due to both its beautiful cover and its intriguing synopsis. What could be so compelling, you ask? Well, I am glad you asked.
Well, hello Goodreads my old friend: Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.
Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine—called Mare—the sister of her betrothed.
When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two become closer, Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. And soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.
But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.
Ok, if you’re looking for a fluffy novel, complete with f/f romance, lots of horse talk, and a dash of magic, then this is your book. There were lots of heartwarming moments, especially towards the end of the story, and I really enjoyed the blossoming of the romance. I just love the idea of the princess falling in love with the prince’s sister instead of her betrothed, and I do hope more LGBTQIAP+ twists on classic fairy tale tropes like this one are published soon. Were some of the obstacles to Denna and Mare’s relationship a bit unnecessary? Maybe. But does it truly matter when you have a slow burn romance with two strong female characters? Denna and Mare were both so headstrong and regal in their own ways, and I really admired their tenacity. In general, I appreciated that the kingdoms seemed to be a bit more accepting of women in leadership positions than other fantasy worlds I’ve seen, and I also liked that homosexual relationships were not frowned upon in this world. However, the thing about the world is that…it kind of isn’t truly there. I understand that this is (at least for now) a standalone fantasy novel, which tends to really constrain the amount of world-building, but I do still think that the world could have been built a lot stronger than just the foundations. Basically, there was a lot of information about it strewn throughout the book, but it felt kind of like random facts rather than a cohesive building. For example, we’d get lots of politics and lots of magic, but not as much thrown in about why those things actually work the way they do, which can really help fully form a world.
In my opinion though, the only thing that stopped me from giving this book a higher rating was the shaky world-building. Everything else worked really well, from the romance to the pacing to the characters. I am really hoping this book gets a sequel because I think this novel is a good start to an interesting premise. The ending was left open enough that not only do I want a sequel, but I think a sequel is almost necessary. But I digress. In conclusion, as long as you are not super bothered by slightly vague world-building, I highly recommend this book to you.