Magic is power, and power is magic…
Once they were inseparable, just two little girls playing games in a formidable castle. Now Princess Marie-Victoria, heir to the mightiest empire in the world, and Aelwyn Myrddyn, a bastard mage, face vastly different futures.
Quiet and gentle, Marie has never lived up to the ambitions of her mother, Queen Eleanor the Second. With the help of her Merlin, Eleanor has maintained a stranglehold on the world’s only source of magic. While the enchanters faithfully serve the crown, the sun will never set on the Franco-British Empire.
As the annual London Season begins, the great and noble families across the globe flaunt their wealth and magic at parties, teas, and, of course, the lavish Bal du Drap d’Or, the Ball of the Gold Cloth.
But the talk of the season is Ronan Astor, a social-climbing American with only her dazzling beauty to recommend her. Ronan is determined to make a good match to save her family’s position. But when she falls for a handsome rogue on the voyage over, her lofty plans are imperiled by her desires.
Meanwhile, Isabelle of Orleans, daughter of the displaced French royal family, finds herself cast aside by Leopold, heir to the Prussian crown, in favor of a political marriage to Marie-Victoria. Isabelle arrives in the city bent on reclaiming what is hers. But Marie doesn’t even want Leopold-she has lost her heart to a boy the future queen would never be allowed to marry.
When Marie comes to Aelwyn, desperate to escape a life without love, the girls form a perilous plan that endangers not only the entire kingdom but the fate of the monarchy.
1. Let’s start with a positive, shall we?
I totally dig this world. It’s like a re-imagining of the world and its history. This was during a time where royalty and balls and someone’s name meant everything to everyone. I believe I want to place this time period in the 1800s with the crowns and jewels and revelry…but add in some magic. This world is so cool, because it pairs the pompousness of royalty and privilege with that of real magic. Aelwyn’s father is “the Merlin” which is, as far as I can figure, a station put into place because of Merlin himself. Merlins help the crown run the country and provide magical help when necessary. Aelwyn also visits her aunt Viviane in Avalon! Sounding familiar? One of the things about this book I found fascinating was the world, most definitely.
2. This was so boring. It is a wonder I didn’t fall asleep while reading this.
There were maybe only three instances in the book that were exciting. The “plot” the two girls (Aelwyn and Marie) hatch is so boring. There is not anything in the book to make this interesting, even though there were many opportunities to MAKE it exciting. I didn’t know that there was a dastardly plot until the last 15 pages, which were incidentally the most exciting. There were so many opportunities the author left open for herself to put in more excitement and action, but it ended up falling flat. We have to follow these boring society women through their hunt for a husband during the London Season, and I just couldn’t get into it.
3. The writing is gorgeous.
Even though I didn’t like the actual story, the writing was beautiful. This is the first book I’ve read from de la Cruz, so I was very pleasantly surprised at the beauty of her words. I am a sucker for a great writer, so that could be one reason I actually finished. Not only was her world building stellar, but she painted me such vivid pictures that I felt like I was *in* the story, even if I found the story dull.
4. The characters. I only liked two of them.
We can maybe chalk this up to me not liking the story, and therefore, not liking the characters, but I don’t think that’s it. I hated Prince Leo because he is an abhorrent ass. I hated Isabelle (even though I had a TON of sympathy for her) because she was a rotten brat. I disliked – didn’t hate – Princess Marie because she wants to throw her life of luxury away to marry for love (HELLO!!! You’re a princess! You don’t get to do that, especially not in this world. Come on). I disliked Ronan because she admits at every turn that she is husband hunting in London. While we’re in Ronan’s narratives, she always talks about how she cannot return to New York unless she finds a husband. I understand being broke, trust me, I do, but I could never just marry anyone for money! I know we live in a different world, but still. She really annoyed me. I really liked Prince Wolf, though. He seemed to be the only one with any type of moral compass and brains. There were two side characters named Archie and Perry who were the comedic relief. I would read a book solely about them.
5. This read like a Jane Austen novel.
I hate Jane Austen. I hate Jane Austen with a burning passion. Her books are boring, her stories are drab, and I can’t stand the way she writes. This book read a LOT like a Jane Austen novel, which is probably the main reason I didn’t take a liking to it. There is even a reference to Austen in the book (surprised?) so that should’ve been my first clue. If you like Austen, though, you might like this book.
OVERALL: 2.5 stars. It wasn’t a bad book! And as I said, I hate writing less than stellar reviews, so I’m sorry about this one, but I want to be honest with you. The story dragged. As soon as something exciting happened, it was over too fast and not explored enough. The most exciting part was the last 15 pages, and I am amazed I didn’t just throw this on my Did Not Finish pile. However, if you like romance, royal dances, fancy dresses, and royal drama, then this book is for you. And, if you’re a Jane Austen fan, this would be right up your alley! Again, don’t take my word for it! Read it!