A bloody coup overthrows the king and wipes out nearly the entire family. Only a baby girl escapes with the help of a palace guard. Rema grows up knowing nothing of her past or who she really is. Her only clue is a necklace with a cryptic message inside.
Though she is raised as the daughter of a horse merchant, she catches the eye of Prince Darmik, commander of the king’s army. His jealous brother, the Crown Prince, sees Darmik’s affection for the girl and blackmails her to marry him instead.
Torn between her attraction for Prince Darmik and the Crown Prince’s threats, Rema does the only thing she can: she pledges herself to Prince Lennek to spare her family from harm.
Rema is a high-spirited girl, one who will not easily be broken. Prince Darmik is an honorable man. Though his father the king makes some terrible choices, Darmik will uphold the law and support his king. Both are complex characters with internal as well as external conflicts.
Prince Lennek and the king were much less complex. The king is evil because he is greedy. He’s greedy because he is evil. Prince Lennek is spoiled and that motivates all sorts of disastrous choices. I felt like there were a lot of unexploited opportunities for tension and complexity in both these characters. I couldn’t understand why Darmik would blindly serve them if they were indeed so vile.
I found the economics of the story world a bit distracting. The farmers grow the food, which the king then collects and sells back to the people, though much of it spoils before it can be distributed. Servants receive only bread and water twice a day. The people are not allowed to travel from one district to another. How does this make any sense for trade? If the king is levying high taxes against the people, how are there barons or lords still wealthy? A nearly bankrupt kingdom – now that would give the king some greater motivation than greed. Seventeen years of this seems like it would leave the kingdom bankrupted with a rebellion mounted long ago.
Also (spoiler alert) at one point Rema is accused of betraying her engagement to Prince Lennek by being caught with another man. She refutes this as a lie. Um… but like two scenes ago she was kissing another guy?! I was confused.
One thing I did enjoy was listening to Michelle Michaels narration of the story. Her voice carried the intensity perfect for the suspenseful or high-action scenes. Her accent fit the story well. Sometimes the intensity of the narration seemed a little high for the scene at hand, but overall she definitely kept the feeling that important things were about to happen throughout the entire audiobook.
A lot of readers have raved about this book on Goodreads. Honestly, I couldn’t really get into it. There were too many things that made me sit back and scratch my head. For readers looking for a fantasy fix, I recommend the series Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (very clean, Christian content.) The recently released novel Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard is a bit similar in plot but, in my opinion, more well-executed.
Brief kissing. References to Prince Lennek’s promiscuous behavior. A palace servant is discovered to be pregnant. She claims Lennek is the father. Darmik and some of his soldiers visit a tavern at which some girls approach them. Darmik sends them away.
Darmik uses military force to capture rebels spreading rumors that an heir to the former king lives. He plans to torture the rebels to find out more, but descriptions are extremely brief. When Rema is sent to the dungeon, she finds terrible conditions there.
Darmik and his men visit a tavern for ale and information.