Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Length: 416 Pages
Date(s) Read: May 1, 2019 – May 9, 2019
Date Published: April 9, 2019
Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.
Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.
Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?
In this shimmering Chinese-inspired fantasy, debut author Joan He introduces a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggling to do right in a world brimming with deception.
My Rating: ★★★★☆
Knowing that this was a YA Debut, I went into this with some reservations, but I was completely pleasantly surprised by this book.
The writing style is absolutely wonderful. Honestly I wouldn’t have guessed that this was a debut if I had just happened to pick it up without hearing about it. The writing style itself shows that author has put in a lot of work and practice into the craft. It’s great to read writing like this, especially after the last YA Fantasy Debut let me way down in terms of writing, and frankly if I were to recommend this book for one thing, it would be the writing itself.
The plot was intriguing, and it’s not an idea I’ve seen done that often in YA fantasy. The idea of soothsayers not just being able to tell the future but to manipulate time using their magic is such a cool magic system, and the Chinese inspiration throughout the plot, the worldbuilding, and the magic was beautifully executed.
However I felt like the pacing of it wasn’t quite right. Some places I was bored and ended up skimming, and other places I wasn’t sure I was actually keeping up with what was going on. There needed to be a little more balance in the execution, but otherwise I really enjoyed the plot of a young queen trying to fill her father’s shoes, while also attempting to solve the mystery of his death.
The setting was just brilliant. I don’t have anything bad to say about it. The world felt so vivid and I just really enjoyed learning about the world. It wasn’t an intense exercise in worldbuilding by any means, but I’m hoping we’ll get more of that if she decides to write a second book.
The characters, in my opinion, were the weakest link for me. It’s been less than a week since I’ve read this book and I forget pretty much all of their names already. None of the characters feel all that developed, except for Hesina, and I think more could have been done to develop them on the page. What’s strange is that I definitely didn’t feel this way when reading the book, but now that I’ve had a week to digest it, I’m definitely seeing that.
That said, there were moments while reading that I felt the emotions that the author was trying to convey. I teared up twice while reading it. Even though some of the character’s didn’t feel developed, Hesina cared about them enough that when something happened to them I felt for her more than for them.
I’d definitely recommend this, for the writing style, the unique and diverse setting, and just for a good time.