Edmund is heir to the throne of Thalassa and a wielder of Water magic. Devoted to his kingdom and his duty to it, Edmund can do nothing but acquiesce to an arranged marriage with the queen of a neighboring kingdom. The marriage and the child it is required to produce will seal an alliance between Thalassa and Aither that is vital to Thalassa’s safety, and far more important than Edmund’s personal misgivings.
Arden is the younger brother of Aither’s queen and a wielder of Air magic. Raised in the politics of the court to support his sister’s rule, he understands the alliance is important to Aither, even as he worries about his sister marrying someone she’s never met. When Edmund arrives in Aither to prepare for the wedding, Arden is tasked with helping him settle in at court. As they spend more time together, Edmund and Arden develop a close friendship, then stronger feelings, but with Edmund’s wedding approaching, they must hide their feelings, even from themselves.
When someone tries to assassinate the queen, Edmund is blamed, and Arden rescues him before he can be executed for a crime he didn’t commit. To prevent a war between their kingdoms and protect them from a dangerous enemy, Edmund and Arden will have to discover who wants to pit Aither and Thalassa against each other and mend relations between the two kingdoms as they evade those searching for them—all while finding a way to be together.
Overall Rating: 5/10 stars
Arthur’s Review: 3/5 Stars
I wanted to give this book all the stars and all the love. ALL THE STARS. Unfortunately, for reasons I shall discuss shortly, I could only give this beautiful book 3 stars.
But the good first!
The good is, first and foremost, I love the heck out of this world! Aquilante has crafted an intriguing, immersive fantasy world with magic I want to learn more about and characters I love. Second, with regards to the trans character, there is no gender freak out. There’s no Deep Heartfelt Coming out Discussion between him and his love interest. Because men like him just exist in this universe. And I love that. I love it so. Fucking. Much. That’s exactly what I want. I want my queer characters to just be a fact, some people you run into might be x or y and that’s okay!
And I loved the hints at the character’s being trans. There was no need for a trans 101 scene or anything like that. No in depth descriptions of how the character’s anatomy did or did not match his pronouns. It felt so nice to not have to deal with invasive questions from the love interest or awkward family meetings. Trans men just exist in this world. And it’s so beautiful.
The reason I can only give this book three stars, despite all the awesome, is there are long stretches. Where nothing. Happens. There is a lot of parts where the characters are just waiting for the action to come to them. They escape and then they wait. And there’s great character stuff in there! But the action felt stalled and like more should be happening rather than them just sort of. Not doing anything. Except talking about what was going on over and over.
I liked this book overall, I just wish it hadn’t felt so stalled in places
Amanda’s Review: 2/5 Stars
I wanted to like a lot of the elements of this book, but I felt myself wanting so much more from it. The world is developed, but the characters leave some to be desired. The romance between Edmund and Arden builds up quickly, but I felt myself constantly asking if it felt realistic. I kept waiting for The Moment that would really cement the romance between the two characters, but they just kept sleeping with each other and reading.
The world itself was developed, but there was so much of the writing devoted to exposition of the world creation that the narrative was slow and plodding. I like when world building really helps to reinforce the story, but when it’s simply to show how pretty the world is, it doesn’t do much for me as a reader. The narrative of the book itself felt under developed, and I couldn’t get behind the big reveal of the villain at all. It didn’t make sense for some random character that we met for a brief time to have so much influence that didn’t impact any other part of the story. The plot felt mechanical and the story needed more meat on its bones.
I can’t tell you at all why it was a good idea to leave the castle after Edmund had been arrested. When there was no Thalassan army waiting at the gates the whole “Edmund tried to kill Hollis” story would have fallen apart. Also, if Edmund could have sent his father a message through the undines then why didn’t he do that before anything else? Edmund and Arden leaving really did nothing for them, and it really feels like the story was stunted by the choice to have them hide out at Arden’s safe house. The plot to arrest Edmund was so shoddily constructed that it would have fallen apart if Arden had used his courtly influence for five minutes to investigate.
I was really frustrated by the lack of development with Hollis. Her movements as a monarch didn’t make much sense for her as an antagonist. She felt really two dimensional and honestly like a mechanism to drive Edmund and Arden together instead of a character with motivations that did so. I got a full length, in depth description of what Hollis looked like, but I couldn’t tell you why she did a single thing during the course of the novel.
Overall, I felt frustrated because I wanted so much more from this book than I got.