What's a girl to do when she comes second to men, her older sister, and the rest of society? Work her way to the top. The very top. The plan: seduce the king, marry him, kill him, and take his throne.
This is an interesting review for me because it's the first time I've been on the fence about a book but still wanted to review it. Usually, if I don't like something, I don't bother reviewing. But this book genuinely entertained me throughout. Despite its many flaws. So I'm sure there are some of you who, like me, will appreciate this story; but there are going to be others who can't get past the writing and the first hundred pages.
Plot, Characters, and Romance
During the first half of the book, the characters are a bit flat, and rather than crazy and knowing what she wants, the female main character comes across a bit bratty. And rather than mysterious and edgy, the main male character comes across bland. However, I beg you to stick with it. This book gets sooooo good. What starts out as a mission to kill the king and take his place soon turns into a mysterious love story that has even the unflappable female main character abuzz with tension.
The shadow king isn't allowed to touch anyone. But no one knows why. He sees hundreds of girls every season, but invites none of them to stay at the palace and court him, despite his council's insistence that he search for a bride and a produce an heir (he's the only member of his family left). But the king has an ulterior motive. Discover which member of his court and/or council murdered his brother and parents. When our female main character comes in, she ignores him, challenges him at every turn, and fixes lots of political issues with her bright and ingenious ideas. She's clever, knows herself, and isn't afraid to break tradition to be herself. Even her dresses--designed by her own hand--are scandalous, causing all the ladies at court to copy her styles. so naturally, she and the king form an alliance. A fake courtship. She gets the power she wants and he gets the council off his back while he continues the search for his family's murderer.
But obviously, they fall in love somewhere along the line, and then she can't kill him. Typical.
There are two twists to this story. Both come at the end. The first one I saw coming a mile away. Of course he was one of the culprits. But the second took me by such surprise, I actually whispered "what the fuck?" to myself. If you guess it correctly, then kudos to you, but I totally missed all the signs. They are there, though.
The romance in this is full of tension. Neither want to admit to themselves that they've done what they didn't ever want to do: fall in love. And, of course, they can't touch. It creates a beautifully woven love story that is worth sifting through the bad to reach. This love story really takes the top shelf notch, however, in the final half of the book. It's worth the wait, I promise.
Side Note: This is a clean story, and despite all of the sexy buildup, the sex scene at the end fades to black. Just giving you a head's up.
This, like other sections of the book, is shallow. Which is my biggest issue with this book. The characters aren't as interesting as they should have been, the world building wasn't as in-depth enough as it should have been, and the writing wasn't as good as it should have been. Especially for a Macmillan imprint published book. I didn't get a good feel for the book's setting at all. There was electricity, but it was an otherwise medieval-style setting. Maybe it was supposed to be more 1920s-ish. I honestly don't know. The king is trying to overthrow the surrounding kingdoms and colonise them so he can expand his empire, but you never really see the other kingdoms. They're not important at all, actually. They might as well have not existed.
The description used throughout was basic and awful. It did not paint a picture in the reader's mind at all.
Ugh. I don't know where to start. This read like a grammatically correct first draft. There were no errors, but everything was listed in repetitively-sized sentences that were similar in style. The dialogue was basic line-to-line stuff with very little action and description and emotion within the conversations. Considering how much I paid for this book (£15), I'm disappointed it was written so badly. This is probably some of the worst writing I've seen come out of a big-five publisher in a long time. It's up there with 50 Shades (though it's maybe not quite as ridiculous). It's written in first person present tense, but there's no inner monologue, so I have to ask why the author/publisher/editor chose to use this POV if they weren't going to actually use it.
And I hate that I have something so negative to say about a book I enjoyed, but it took me a while to get past the writing and focus on the story. And then I had to get past the main character and lack of setting.