“When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.
Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.
Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.
With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?”
-Synopsis taken from Goodreads
Hey guys! Meaghan here again with another review!
“That is a true gift, to help others see the world in a different way.”
Stars (Out of 10): 9/10 Stars
Favorite Character: Cartier or Brienna!
Spoiler Free: I’ll admit, for some reason, I had low expectations going into this book. Even though the synopsis seemed quite intriguing, and unlike other books I’ve read before, I kind of expected it to just read like any other YA Fantasy, and the world and plot to be fairly standard as well. In the end though, I absolutely loved this book, and it hooked me much more than some of my other recent reads. From the first few chapters I was hooked, and kept wanting to read this instead of my other current read at the time.
For me, the book owes its success to its lush and intriguing world as well as fantastic characters. I was wholly invested in Brienna and her story, from how she balanced herself between her two worlds/two kingdoms to her relationships and role in the plot itself.
In terms of the world, I thought the author did a fantastic job of building both kingdoms as well as the passion and magic systems. While magic and kingdoms and tyrant kings are nothing new, Ross definitely put her own spin on this world, and I found myself quite intrigued by how everything worked. For example, magic exists, but it doesn’t dominate the structure of the kingdoms, as only a single family has it. Furthermore, to avoid a dominance of said family, the magic is a fickle thing, and should not be used for violence/harm if the user wants to stay sane. Additionally, the combination of this magic with a different sort of talent, passions, balanced the world while also adding another interesting system. While the story could have technically been told the same with passions removed, these passions did make the world feel more deep, and more thought through. It also just added hobbies to a fantasy world, which oddly, isn’t a thing most fantasy characters have. Lastly, the two kingdoms themselves were quite distinguishable, but not so different that it became hard to believe. For example, differences stemmed from the systems the country were built upon, as Maevana is a country built on physical strength and therefore their customs are less “refined” and both women and men are trained, while in Valenia, a country built more on the system of passions and refining talents in schools, is the more polite of the two kingdoms.
Additionally, the characters and their relationships with each other were also well done. Not only does Brienna form strong female friendships with most of the women she meets, promoting support and friendship instead of competition, she also struggles with a lot of familial relationships. Since she is an illegitimate child whose mother died when she was young, and whose father she knows nothing about, a lot of the story deals with Brienna defining herself through her blood and chosen families, and her navigation of these relationships feels extremely realistic. Additionally, the romance was also done quite well in the story. It wasn’t the main focus by far, and spends about half of the book in the background, but it was a constant thread throughout the story. It was reliable in the story rather than volatile, but it was still extremely sweet and full of love, and blended really well with the beauty of the relationships in this story in general.
The plot itself was also intriguing, even if it wasn’t altogether too surprising or intense. It was also resolved rather easily, without much loss, but then this is also the first book. I was quite surprised at a few twists, but others were a bit too obvious, or given away by the information/maps/genealogy charts in the beginning of the book. However, it wrapped up extremely nicely, so I am curious how Ross will draw more of a story out of this, especially if Brienna is to be the main character again.
Overall, I’m really happy with this book as a whole, and really enjoyed this read! I cannot wait to read what Ross does next, as this world is one I’d love to dive into again.