The goodreads blurb for this book included the following: Ashley R. Carlson’s award-winning fantasy debut will satisfy the appetites of those who enjoyed the romance of Stephenie Meyer’s TWILIGHT, the stirrings of rebellion in Suzanne Collins’ THE HUNGER GAMES, and the steampunk universe of Philip Pullman’s THE GOLDEN COMPASS. I think if you read that and then read the book, you would be rather disappointed. I could see how it isn’t exactly a totally false statement, but it really distorts reader expectations. I struggled after the first half of this book, and I ended up lumping it into the “meh” pile.
I can’t shake this feeling that I’ve been lied to, nor that I’m partly to blame. I’ve spent my life following orders, never questioning Legalia’s decisions for me, for the world. I had food, shelter, better living conditions than most-why rock the boat?
Because you can choose between doing what is comfortable, or doing what is right, answers the small voice within me.
I was afraid of that.
An arranged marriage. A corrupt government called Legalia. A forbidden spiritual realm.
Duchess Ambrose Killaher was just seventeen years old when exiled to Shinery-a city of snow and darkness-to marry a man who despised her, finding her only solace in an invisible companion named Roan.
Now as the poor starve in the streets below and rebellious acts become a frequent occurrence, Shinery holds its yearly celebration to commemorate Legalia’s rule. But when Ambrose stumbles into a hidden courtroom and witnesses a violent murder, she is thrust into a secret world of the supernatural-one that could endanger everyone she’s grown to care for. With the help of a handsome stranger, Ambrose learns of the past Legalia has covered up, and that she alone possesses the power to stop their unspeakable plans for the future.
I was pulled in quickly by the narrative voice and the situation of the protagonist in this story. Untouched by the husband she was forced to marry, living in a foreign and unfriendly land, and surrounded by a corrupt ruling system that abuses the lower classes, Ambrose seemed poised to become the shining light in a rebellion. However, things didn’t quite go down as I expected. The plot got weighted down by a series of political maneuvers that were focused on using some sort of spiritual powers. I wasn’t really clear why the spiritual powers were a threat or an asset, so I couldn’t understand why it was a cause. This seemed to be a book that was trying to either pit science against spirituality or that was trying to bring them together. The purpose, again, was really unclear to me. When politics and ghost hunting weren’t the focus, “romance” was. Overly dramatic scenes where a blossoming love was thwarted by various jealousies and barriers took up a lot of pages. There was a lot of concern about sexual intimacy and a lot less concern about emotional connection between characters, which is not exactly my idea of romance. In the end, I was more unclear than ever about what exactly was going on in either the spiritual world or the earthly realm, and I wasn’t sure I cared. I enjoyed several of the characters, especially the secondary characters, but I just didn’t enjoy the actual story after the first half.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.