This book is like a tootsie roll lolly pop. You have to get through the boring outside before the delicious center, but the wait is definitely worth it.
Fair haired Valorian Kestrel is the daughter of a famous general who’s expectation of her is to join the military or marry. Kestrel is not encouraged to play her beloved piano, so when she accidentally overhears the auctioning of a Herrani slave who is a fellow musician, she uncharacteristically buys him from the market. She soon finds that he is a proud and unbeaten man, and she asks him for his complete honesty in all things. Kestrel learns from Arin many things about herself and his past, and she realizes that the conquered Herrani are not the helpless people she may have thought them to be. From their conversations, Kestrel begins to see the true nature of her society, her family, and of course, herself.
To be completely honest, the minute I opened this book I was ready to write a completely sub-par review. Oh no, I thought, another book about a badass princess. By chapter two, I was prepared for the general mediocrity that would be sure to come.
If I have ever pitched a book to a potential reader with the promise that it would “pick up near the end,” this is the book I was talking about. The beginning was typical and uninteresting. The second half though, is fast paced and absorbing. The plot is not boring at all, and it constantly is developing and moving into new territory. The characters don’t sit there mulling over one little snag the entire time. So that was good. I stress again, just get to the second half.
But what is really the best aspect of this book is the romance. Yay for romance lovers like me! In my opinion, the relationship between Kestrel and Arin is captivating. They are from two different worlds, and they are separated by their race and class. Neither wants to be in the position they are in, but both realize that they just have to suck it up and figure out a way to make it work. Kestrel is trapped under the expectant gaze of her military father, and Arin is a slave cast from his previously noble position. But don’t worry, this isn’t another princess-falls-in-love-with-the-stable-hand kind of novel. I think we’ve all had enough of those. This is a story about two people who are equal in every respect, except in the way that society perceives them.
The book also explores the nature of love of country; how loyalty to one’s people and heritage may not always be what is right.
Okay, yes, there is a certain amount of cheese, and yes, the names of some of the characters are less than creative. And yes, there is of course the obligatory dress scene, where the protagonist in question describes the every detail of her debut gown. Basically, if you are unwilling to read through the tea parties and debutante balls then this book is not for you. But what I think matters most in judging a book, is how you feel when you turn the last page (warning! It’s a cliffhanger!). What I was feeling when I finally reached the end, was that I wished I had the second book next to me so I could start reading immediately!
All in all, I would steer you away from this novel if you aren’t into the whole royalty and dresses thing. And if you had any doubts about the genre, it is one hundred percent a romance. If you hate romances, don’t even bother. If however, you are okay with a little cheese now and then and love this kind of novel, then I absolutely recommend it.