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ARC was given by NetGalley & Tordotcom in exchange for an honest review.
This review is being published before the release date (August 30th, 2022)
Content/Trigger Warnings: On page depictions of anxiety & panic attacks, depression, loss of loved ones, scene of physical & verbal abuse, graphic violence, depictions of blood, graphic injuries, attempted drugging, scene of kidnapping/abduction, on page racial slur (often used towards Muslims)
Oh boy, where do I even begin with this book, this review, and just… everything. This was not it, friends. I feel like the only person in the room who dislikes this book because every review I see is four or five stars, everyone raving of how amazing this book is. I feel like I’ve read an entirely different book and usually with my romance reads, I devour them in a day or so. Nope, nope, nope, big ole’ NOPE! That was not the case and at the end of reading this book, I feel disappointed and frustrated. So much happens and yet absolutely nothing happens! This book could have been everything, but it fell short for me, greatly.
After a hunting trip gone horribly wrong, Kadou, the prince of Arasht, finds himself feeling lower than he’s ever felt in a long time. Feeling distant from his sister and in a sense, banished from court after this incident, Kadou takes on proving his loyalty to his sister by investigating a break-in at one of their guilds. What Kadou uncovers is much more than just a simple break-in. With his newly appointed body guard, Evemer, they’ll dig deeper into a thickening scheme and maybe even find themselves more drawn to each other than they originally thought.
I really loved a lot of the side characters. The side characters were fantastically done. A lot of these side characters stood out more than our mc and love interest. Kadou’s sister and sultan, Zeliha was a force that commanded attention every time she was in a scene and you could constantly feel the tug-o-war she was having with making certain decisions. Eozena was a really great character that stood out a lot, as well. Captain of the core guard and a close family friend to Kadou and Zeliha, Eozena was delightful to have in scenes. And the banter that would often take place was so good. And probably my favorite, Tenzin, who’s introduced way later in the book was a freaking riot. Tenzin is a truth telling witch and the funny moments she brings to the table was absolute bliss. I adored her so much especially when we get the scene with her and everyone walking back to the palace, pure gold moment! I wish we had been introduced to her far sooner than just getting a few pages with her around. And don’t even get me started on how wonderfully delightful Evemer’s mother was. She was a treat of a side character and definitely underrated!
“I’m getting paid as we speak,” she said with a grin, slouching down into her chair and crossing her arms. “I’m getting paid in chaos.”
The other thing I really loved about this book was the accurate portrayal of anxiety and panic attacks. We see these attacks from both Kadou’s perspective and we can see a lot of the outside perspective from Evemer. I really loved the duel perspectives in this case because you could see how things would begin to unfold within Kadou, but then in Evemer’s perspective we would see how those who are closest to Kadou would feel and see them go from not understanding the situation to doing whatever they can to help. It was really well done and the detail of these scenes was really set the tone so the reader could feel what these characters were experiencing.
However, these were the only redeemable qualities of this book I took notes on. And the more I sat on these notes and processed how this book left me feeling, there were so many problems. The issues from itty-bitty to big were stacked high and I couldn’t just overlook them. So I want to address them and hopefully prepare anyone who’s considering picking this book up.
The first thing I want to point out is something minor, but also a huge issue that had no place being used in this book. About 21% into this book, a racial slur is used that is very often used and offensive to Muslims. I really don’t care if the excuse is, “Oh, the MC was drunk, was trying to start a fight, and so they’re going to say these kind of things.” I really don’t care what excuse someone tries to use to justify this because it doesn’t take away the fact that this word is completely unnecessary and hurtful/harmful, but also the fact the author specifically chose this word despite there being plenty of other options instead. It was a lot cringe for me and it soured my reading mood pretty early on in the book.
“The knowledge that one wrong word spoken in fear to someone offering comfort could send shock waves through the whole, like ocean waves after an earthquake.”
My biggest issue with this book has to do with the writing and the duel perspectives. I’m really hoping in the final version of this book, these issues will be done a bit better or even more fleshed out. Usually, I don’t mind books that have two or more perspectives, but it bothers me immensely when the two perspectives blur together and it takes two to three pages before you realize you’re in a different perspective. Typically, perspectives are broken up into their own chapters, sometimes even labelled from who’s perspective you’re in. This is also done very often with books that flash between past and present. However, this is not the case in this book. One chapter holds both duel perspectives and are only broken up by dotted breaks. Sometimes it can take a couple of paragraphs to even a few pages before any distinction is made of who’s perspective you’re reading from. This at times ruined the reading experience for me because it was so hard to tell who’s point of view I was in. A lot of the time the perspective of Kadou and Evemer blended together because some of the time this blending of perspectives would happen in the same space and time as certain events were unfolding. It was really frustrating and it made it hard to enjoy the reading process.
Speaking of characters, this was another issue for me. If you noticed, I never mentioned anything I liked about our MC or the love interest. That’s due to not liking either of them, at all. I found no redeemable qualities for either of them. While I love the accurate portrayal of anxiety and panic attacks in Kadou, that doesn’t make up for everything else about him. Kadou was like watching a train wreck happen. With how much he boasts about all the education he received and how he was trained into being a weapon if necessary, we see those skills one time. Otherwise, we spend countless of moments of him scrambling, not thinking things through, and even causing scenes where he literally causes dangerous situations to unfold because he refuses to actually think and plan. Evemer, on the other hand, felt like a brick wall and it didn’t help that he spent 75%-80% of the book constantly trying to shut down his feelings, his emotions, kept his speech more on the professional side of things, and also spent probably 50%-60% of the book judging everyone except Zeliha. This made it really hard to connect with him or even feel any empathy towards. I did like he was a hard worker and dedicated to his job, but that’s all I really liked about him.
While I really don’t like ranting or complaining about books, since we’re already here, I might as well mention that the people behind everything is revealed pretty early on. Actually, they were revealed just slightly before the 50% mark and kind of killed the entire mystery that was behind the guild break-in. We also have an entire magic system that is never flushed out, we get glimpses of people who have special abilities, and that’s about it. We never see these abilities come into play in big scenes and if they do, the scenes are always very brief and we never really see the full extent of that kind of magic/abilities. Which the world building was even more hard to get behind because it often times felt like it was trying to do too much at once and felt confusing. With that being said, I think that played a huge part it why this book was such a slow read and why I skimmed sections because things felt very dragged out or even at times, an information dump zone.
“I don’t expect I’m going to stop wanting you.”
I also want to take a moment to address the romance in this book. I know a lot of readers say it’s a slow burn and yes, it’s a slow burn alright. The romance is so slow that nothing exciting or even romantical actually happens with Kadou and Evemer until the 70%-75% mark. Although, I wouldn’t even really classify this book as a slow burn romance or even a romance in general. You can’t take the last 30% of a book and call it a romance. For the majority of this book, there was no chemistry with either of these characters. And as I already mentioned with the characters, love and attraction was the furthest thing from both Evemer and Kadou’s minds until the 70-75 percentage way I just mentioned. It just wasn’t what I expected for a romance and for me personally, it was very lacking and at times the romance felt more lust driven than love driven.
Overall, as I mentioned in the beginning, so much happened yet nothing happened all at the same time. Honestly, I wish I could go back in time when I hit the 50% mark, convince myself to ‘dnf’ this book to save myself the trouble of reading this book like I was originally going to. This just wasn’t the book for me, but it really could have been everything and it just missed the mark horrendously. But hey, I read this book so you don’t have to! And if I’m being fully honest, I don’t recommend this book. I think there are other fantasy and romance books that are out there that have better established magic systems, have better slow burn romances than this one does, and don’t leave you with more questions than when you started.
Buddy Read with Destiny ♥
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.