I was really surprised at how much I liked this book! I picked it up on Amazon a little while ago in one of those flash 99p sales you sometimes see when the final part of a trilogy is being released and the publisher wants to tempt everyone in. I bought it because I’d heard good things about it, but I literally left it until I had nothing else to read because I wasn’t really sure if it would be my kind of thing. The reason? The cover.
Yes, I judge books by their cover.
The cover of this book is rubbish. Seriously, look to the left ... see? Really rubbish. It looks like a perfume advert and it is in no way representative of what happens in the story and the reason I put off reading it for so long was because the dopey-looking girl in the dress on the front cover made me think this was going to be like The Selection *twitches*. It’s nothing like The Selection. For one thing, the characters actually have a little bit of depth about them.
Seriously though, this would have piqued my interest a lot earlier if it had had some kind of Swords-and-Sandals type cover, because that’s what this book is really about. It’s about what happens when one civilisation conquers another. And it’s about romance, too, a bit, but mostly it’s about conquering and impossible choices and trying to please your parents.
Good cliffhanger-ish ending. Won’t say any more, but it’s made me want to pick up the next book (which, I suppose, is the point).
I really liked Kestrel and felt bad for her that she was faced with two futures that looked equally unappealing. I also liked that she was a bit of a failure in Valorian eyes (i.e. crap at fighting). Mary Sues are not my thing. The romance between Kestrel and Arin was nice and slow-burning, not too rushed, and I really bought into it. It didn’t overwhelm the rest of the plot either.
The plot itself is pretty good. It meanders a bit, especially in the first half, which is a little bit too heavy on the dresses, gossip and social engagements for my liking, but the second half is literally explosive and a lot more gripping. Loads of fighting. Awesome.
The premise is that ten years ago, the Valorian Empire (who I think are supposed to be the Romans), conquered the Herrani (the Greeks) and enslaved them. As soon as the Herrani slaves are mentioned on like page three, I immediately went, ‘Right. Let me guess. She falls in love with a Herrani slave and leads a revolution.’ I was mostly right, but the predictability didn’t alter my enjoyment.
So, in summary: good book, let down by its cover.