Genres: YA Fantasy
The princess didn't expect to fall in love--with her nemesis.
Princess Sepora of Serubel is the last Forger in all the five kingdoms. The spectorium she creates provides energy for all, but now her father has found a way to weaponize it, and his intentions to incite war force her to flee from his grasp. She escapes across enemy lines into the kingdom of Theoria, but her plans to hide are thwarted when she is captured and placed in the young king's servitude.
Tarik has just taken over rulership of Theoria, and must now face a new plague sweeping through his kingdom and killing his citizens. The last thing he needs is a troublesome servant vying for his attention. But mistress Sepora will not be ignored. When the two finally meet face-to-face, they form an unlikely bond that complicates life in ways neither of them could have imagined.
Sepora's gift could save Tarik's kingdom from the Quiet Plague. But should she trust her growing feelings for her nemesis, or should she hide her gifts at all costs?
Set in a lush fantasy world, Anna Banks’s newest story introduces us to two young people, Tarik and Sepora (who I was forever calling Sephora. To be fair, once she gets to Tarik’s land, she does wear a lot of makeup). Tarik’s father, the king of Theoria, dies of the Quiet Plague and Tarik at just 18, inherits the title. Things have been calm during his father’s reign and he’s hoping that peace will last…at least until he can get his feet under him and his Healers cure the plague that’s racing through his people.
Then Sepora, who’s run away from her power-hungry father, the king of Serubel, drops into his lap and disrupts his life. But Sepora’s got a secret — she “Forges” a substance that, while traded amongst four of the five countries in this land, her father plans to use to destroy his neighbors and rule them all. Without her, she figures, he won’t be able to do that. Being a smart young woman, she doesn’t tell Tarik about her ability, even though it may help the Healers cure the plague. It can also be mixed to create bombs. So there’s that.
We get both Sepora’s POV (in first person) and Tarik’s (in third) and, through it, see what they’re hiding from one another, as they attempt to navigate the deep and murky waters of politics and running a country. Sepora holds back as much as she dares (like, that she’s Serubel’s princess and that she can Forge) but Tarik can tell when she lies (his gift) and so they never really fully trust one another, even as they battle wits and fall in love with each other. Both have good hearts and want what’s best for their countries, even if what they are doing is sometimes counterproductive.
The worldbuilding in this story is amazing. I love how Banks pulled from the Egyptians and other Middle Eastern countries to create the country of Theoria as well as the gifts both of the main characters. The descriptions are vivid, the characters are well-fleshed-out and not cliched or stereotypes, and the banter between Sepora and Tarik is spot-on.
And now for the ending. This next bit isn’t technically a spoiler, as I’m going to try and avoid giving away plot points but you may want to stop reading, if you’re not a fan of spoilers of any kind.
Damn, what the hell was that ending? I mean…it just…ended. One thing happened and then another and then there’s coldness where there shouldn’t be and distrust and then…it ended. It’s not a cliffhanger. It’s not what I’d call an solid ending. It’s kind of like when you’re reading a book and, for whatever reason, you’re missing the last couple of chapters. Yeah. That’s exactly what it felt like. Now, from what I’ve read, this series is a duology so it’s going to finish up but I’d rather have a cliffhanger (which I usually dislike because it make me throw my hands up and growl) than a fizzled-out ending like this one. Grr.
This would have been a 5-star read if not for the ending. Yep. That go-go-go-fizzle of an end lost this book a star for me. So, yay for an awesome story and, for now, I’m just going to pretend like that ending didn’t happen as I wait for the conclusion to this story.
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