In the kingdom of Eire, banshees chill the air, and water-wights lurk in the rivers. But magic is outlawed by the king, and jealously hoarded by his Druid priests.
Neve is the youngest daughter of the king, and Ronan is a Druid’s apprentice-turned-thief, making a living by selling stolen spells. They should be enemies, but their shared hatred of the Druids-and a dark magic that has marked them both-makes them unlikely, if uneasy, allies.
When Eire is threatened by a power struggle, Neve must seize the chance to take her rightful place on her family’s throne, with the help of Ronan and the realm’s most dangerous outcasts. Their journey takes them to the outskirts of Eire where magic still runs free . . . and where an outlaw and a warrior princess might carve out a future with spells and swords.
Lesley Livingston vividly reimagines Irish legends and fairytales to craft a YA fantasy adventure that will captivate readers of Brigid Kemmerer and Tricia Levenseller.
Once upon a time, Neve, the younger daughter of the king of Eire, crossed paths with a peculiar boy and faced off against a formidable demon, narrowly escaping with their lives. This harrowing experience left both of them disillusioned with the powerful Druid order that outlawed magic while keeping it under lock and key. Years later, as adults, they find themselves on opposing sides of their society’s divide. However, their shared distrust and aspirations for their country unexpectedly bind them together more closely than they ever imagined. As darkness encroaches upon the land, they discover that their combined strength possesses a rare and potent magic capable of reshaping the future.
Right from the outset, this book held plenty of appeal. The writing exhibited excellence from the very first page, effortlessly capturing the essence of a historical fantasy tale. The prose struck a perfect balance, infusing the narrative with lyrical charm while maintaining clarity in depicting a world that straddles both the familiar and the fantastical. It’s a delicate art to harmonize the historical ambiance with whimsical elements, and this book achieved it admirably. The dialogue, especially during Neve and Ronan’s initial interactions as adults, was a standout. It effortlessly blended humor with an authentic portrayal of the characters, skillfully melding modern sensibilities with a pseudo-historical vocabulary.
Neve and Ronan proved to be captivating individuals in their own right. The dual mysteries surrounding their respective backgrounds added intrigue to their characters. Juggling the enigmatic pasts of two protagonists can be a daunting task, but this book managed to maintain the quality of both narratives without faltering. If pressed to choose between the two, I found Neve particularly compelling. Her journey navigated complex family dynamics, including a satisfying twist towards the end, while also exploring the constraints imposed on women and the unique history of Eire that gave rise to these limitations. Ronan’s story, on the other hand, followed a more straightforward trajectory but remained highly enjoyable.
However, the story stumbled when it came to their relationship. Billed as an “enemies to lovers” romance, I struggled to identify the “enemies” aspect within their dynamic. Instead, sporadic instances of mutual distrust arose, without substantial cause or lasting impact. Frankly, their relationship primarily evoked frustration. Random decisions not to trust one another were swiftly reversed, with the characters seamlessly collaborating and experiencing intense emotions. This wavering felt unrealistic and served little purpose to the narrative beyond contrived conflict. In reality, the potential for conflict was mere talk, quickly dismissed.
Despite the weak romance and occasional pacing issues (particularly in the middle portion, which felt sluggish), this book remained a commendable historical fantasy. The mythology it presented proved highly intriguing, likely to captivate readers who appreciate works by authors like Marilliar and other practitioners of historical fantasy.
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