Some things are stronger than years of lessons. The draw of fire. A longing for freedom. Or a girl on a red horse. (4)
I wanted to love this book, and I did enjoy a few parts greatly, but overall I felt like the incredible promise it had fell a little short. What I needed, in general, was just more. The foundations and the basics are wonderful, and with some more it would have been even better.
Princess Dennaleia has been betrothed to the price of Mynaria her whole life. Her arranged marriage is a political match designed to secure the future of both nations. Now that the date approaches nearer, Denna is sent to Mynaria to meet the prince and get used to life there. But life for her is dangerous there: not only is she hiding her affinity for fire, but she must also learn to ride a horse. Her new teacher is none other than the princess of Mynaria, Mare, a rebellious girl who is only interested in horses and action. However, as they spend more time together, both girls learn more about each other and their friendship threatens the boundaries between friends and lovers. As the political intrigue, and their feelings, heat up, Mare and Denna must figure out what the ultimate sacrifice is to save themselves and their kingdoms.
Let me start with the most basic thing which disappointed me: the world building. I just needed more. What do the buildings look like? Who else has magic? Being someone who loves world building, this was disappointing. I am noticing a trend in a lot of YA books I read, but it shouldn’t be that way. Since magic was a hidden power, I just wanted a little more lore. I mean Denna finds a hidden book about magic, so throw in some more please!
‘She is who she is partly because of that, as we are who we are because of the expectations placed on us.’ (182)
The characters also just needed…more. There were some side characters that I really liked, Nils being my favorite. He had such potential as a plot device and a character that I just wanted there to be more description. The way he is reduces him to only a plot device. (Also every adult seems incapable of listening to logic. What is with that? Are the only ones who are capable of reason as well the protagonists? That seems a little unrealistic.) Additionally, the main characters needed more quirks. They weren’t pieces of toast, but they needed a little more spice. I felt as if they were reduced to their roles and basic personalities: Mare likes horses, Denna loves her sister. They also seemed a little type cast: duty bound Denna and rebellious Mare (see what I did there?)
What I Loved
But let me begin the list of things I loved, because there are some! Can we take a spare moment to appreciate the beauty of that cover? The font and the colors are all perfection. The romance of Mare and Denna was also good. I loved that it was a homosexual romance and that they really don’t like each other (that trope is my favorite). Their passion burned and while it seemed a little far to go from good friends to instant love, it was an enjoyable read. Also the foundations of Mare and Denna are great. They have so much potential: both strong protagonists who are trapped by society. And finally, I did enjoy the ending. Especially the last page, I mean it is a jewel of an ending.
This review can be a little confusing. There were some real things I had issues with, but the foundation of the book is a great premise. The characters have a good base and the fantasy world is interesting . What I lacked was the elevation to be great. Overall, this was a likable and enjoyable read, I just wanted a little more.
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