Author: Megan Dent Nagle
Standing: Book 1
POV: 3rd person, multiple perspectives, past tense
Genre: YA high fantasy
Source: ebook (thank you, Megan!)
Release: February 26th 2015
Rating: 4 Stars
Zora Winnser is the last princess of Samaria, but even though she is the only heir to the Winnser bloodline, she will never rule the Samarian throne. Zora is a baseborn, a child born out of wedlock to Queen Evangeline whose disdain for her illegitimate daughter festers with every passing day.
Zora’s unfortunate birth status is not the only thing that makes her different. She is also a Chimera, a human whose blood is mixed with a sorcerer's-only the Samarian princess doesn’t know it.
When Zora is sixteen, Queen Evangeline decides to marry her off to the Prince of a foreign land infested by dark swamplands. Unbeknownst to Zora, Samaria faces threats from both inside and outside its borders. There is something in Samaria that the race of sorcerers want: azurite crystal mined from underneath Samaria’s mountains. Queen Evangeline is more than willing to give it to them, but at what cost? As Samaria enters into a war they cannot win, loyalties will be tested and all faith in Queen Evangeline will be lost. The only hope in combating Samaria’s bleak future rests in the hands of a traitorous group of Evangeline’s advisors. With the help of other allies in the Realm, those loyal to Zora set out retrieve her from exile so she can take her rightful place as Queen and save the future of Samaria.
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Whoa! I did not see this book coming, at all. Political, internal, and moral struggles, this book covers it all.
This book describes the life of Princess Zora, the illegitimate child of the queen, and the queen herself, Evangeline. Queen Evangeline is a queen who's pride is taken too far, in which the state of her country is hanging on by a thread (though unknown to the citizens). In order to try to keep her control, she marries off her daughter as a means to prevent Zora from ascending to the crown. Zora herself discovers that she is not who she originally thought she was: she is also part sorceress, also known as a Chimera. Throughout the book, we get to see how Zora adjusts to her newfound powers and arranged marriage, and how far Queen Evangeline will go to insure her domain over her country while it enters a state of war.
One of the things that I really enjoyed in this book was its world building, both physical world-wise and political. As in every political situation, there are both pros and cons to every decision, and everyone always has something to gain. We see Queen Evangeline desperately trying to keep her country under control and out of the reach of other tyrants, all while pursuing her own selfish interests like formulating strategic ways to exile Zora. Zora herself comes into contact with people from different countries, and we see the struggles she has between running away to learn more about herself or doing what she is right for her people. The politics ruling behind these decisions are complex and in-depth, and the decisions made by the two are very realistic to their situations and characters.
As a power-hungry queen, Evangeline was easy to dislike. However, we see that she also is truly doing what she thinks is right, and is trying to redeem herself and live up her own father's expectations. Her heart is in the right place, though her actions are not. Especially since her country is running out of food, she makes whatever alliances or deals that she can to ensure that her people continue to live happily. However, as addressed in the book, doing so secretively will ultimately have harsh consequences, resulting in other secret arrangements in order to prevent the first alliance from falling over. Evangeline is finding herself further and further in debt, not just nation-wise, but personally as well. Her character is one that I think most people can related to, yet at the same time, is also a character that makes people cringe at the harsh truths. I'm very interested to know how she'll make out...
Zora, on the other hand, was a fairly interesting character. She has been marked, and though we don't know what it truly means yet, it's not a sign for good. She struggles with the fact that her mother hates her, and is willing to do anything to get rid of her. However, the people love Zora, and it becomes evident that with Evangeline's corruption, Zora will ultimately have to be the one to bring back peace. Zora also struggles with the fact that she is part sorcerous, and in a world where sorcerous are both feared and hated, she must find a way to both hide and learn to control her powers. What I thought was really neat was that much like her mother, Zora is also fascinated by the power her sorceress blood gives her, which can lead her to a dark place...
I also like the idea of how there is a common world and a separate world, where sorcerers live. These two are not allowed to mingle, yet there are a designated few who go between the two in order to keep balance. These are the Wardens, and though they protect both worlds from each other, they are viewed as monsters in the common world. The commoners, ignorant and fearful, have managed to develop specific poisons and other mechanisms to fight them, even though the Warden are good guys. This book is filled with very dynamic elements, ranging from political enemies to supernatural enemies...
A complex and intriguing plot, tyranny, desperate measures, complex political strategies, choosing what's best for a nation, choosing to remain loyal to royalty even as corruption spreads, this book covers it all. I'm looking forward to the next book, as I have many unanswered questions. How will Brutus and Talan find a way to find Zora? What will happen to Liam? Who is Heath's master, and what is his true goal? And most of all, what will become of Zora and Evangeline? So many questions!