This was one of my most highly anticipated reads of the year, and I'm rather disappointed by it. The first chapter introduces you into a world with so many possibilities, and gives you valuable insight that makes you wonder, but for me, the magic stopped there. We're brought into a world with magic, deities, competitions, royals, and assassins. I was immensely intrigued by this because it's all the things I love and more, but the execution didn't hit the mark for me. There are many info-dumps, and the magic system is not well explained or integrated. This book is definitely more plot based than character based as well, which isn't my favorite. I found the characters to be rather bland with not much depth. The world Brown created had so much potential, but I thought the story lacked intensity and high-interest events. I do however, appreciate Brown's inclusion of various illnesses. One of the main characters suffers from panic attacks, and the other chronic migraines. There's also a secondary character who suffers with insomnia. I think this book is very hit or miss. I do know that it is thoroughly enjoyed by many people. I would recommend this book to someone that enjoys basic YA fantasy tropes such as deadly competitions, enemies to lovers, and the outsider protagonist.
About This Book
For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts Malik’s younger sister, Nadia, as payment into the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.
But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.
When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?
The first in an fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore in which a grieving crown princess and a desperate refugee find themselves on a collision course to murder each other despite their growing attraction.