Publication Date: February 19th 2018
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 464 pages
Born out of wedlock, Brienna is cast off by her noble family and sent to Magnolia House - a boarding house for those looking to study the passions: art, music, dramatics, wit and knowledge. Brienna must discover her passion and train hard to perfect her skill, in the hope that she will one day graduate and be chosen by a wealthy patron, looking to support one of the `impassioned'. As Brienna gets closer to the eve of her graduation, she also grows closer to her smart (and handsome) tutor, Cartier. He can sense that she is hiding a secret, but Brienna chooses not to reveal that she is experiencing memories of her ancestors - memories uncovering the mysteries of the past that may have dangerous consequences in the present. A daring plot is brewing - to overthrow the usurper king and restore the rightful monarchy - and Brienna's memories hold the key to its success. Cartier desperately wants to help Brienna, but she must chose her friends wisely, keep her enemies close and trust no one if she is to save herself and her people.
I bought this book months ago because I was super excited to read it, and then it ended up languishing on my to read pile for ages. Why? Because I didn't want to squander it. Have you ever experienced that rare but wonderful feeling, where you know a book is going to be perfect and wonderful and important for you, but you want to save it for just the right moment? That was what I felt for this one, so I waited until the stars were aligned, then I picked it up and began to read.
And did not put it down again.
It was unexpected. It was beautiful. It had wonderfully well drawn and crafted characters. And it had a compelling story at its heart. In short, I loved it. I loved it in a way I was hoping to, yet didn't dare fully express.
The story didn't follow the well worn paths I was expecting, and instead took me in several different directions. Some may find that jarring, but I personally found the unexpectedness refreshing. I enjoyed not knowing where I might be taken next, or how the plot might unfold. It can become so frustrating when you feel you know how a book will develop, so to be surprised was a welcome change.
The writing is beautiful, and really helps to pull you into the story and fully engage you in Brienna's world. I felt for her - her heartbreaks, her disappointments, her desperate desire to help protect her country and those she loves. It was gripping and wonderful, and so good to have a heroine who isn't afraid to get embedded in, to protect and look after herself, to not diminish herself for any man. She is strong within herself, with determination, her strength of character, her convictions, and her knowledge. Not all strength is in wielding a blade, and Brienna shows that beautifully, and I loved her all the more for that.
I cannot fully articulate how much I loved this, but it is most definitely one of my favourites of the year, and I cannot wait for the sequel to grace our shelves early next year.
There were echoes of other stories I enjoyed, so if you liked "The Belles", "A Great and Terrible Beauty", "Grave Mercy", or "The Queen of the Tearling" then you really should pick this up and start down Brienna's adventure with her.