Before I started reading this book, I hadn’t read anything else by Sarah Fine, but I was curious, because I know that she has quite a few successful books out. So when I saw this, and read that synopsis, I knew that I had to get my hands on a copy, because it sounded so amazing. For how much of a treat this book is, I haven’t seen much hype surrounding it or many other bloggers reviewing it, which is a bummer, because it seems like this one somehow slipped under the radar. Either way, I have to tell you…if you like YA fantasy, this one should be a must read for you. While I do enjoy fantasy, especially YA fantasy, I find that I don’t read as much of it as I should, because I really enjoy it. So after reading this book, I’m wanting to get my hands on more like it!
The land of Kupari is ruled by a queen, the Valtia. The Valtia has ice and fire magic, and while harnessing the power of both, she is able to keep her kingdom safe as well as provide for her people. When the current Valtia dies, the new one (who the Kingdom’s Elders choose when she is a little girl, and raise her alongside the Valtia to keep her safe), the magic is passed from her into the new Valtia. This ensures that the people always have a powerful queen who will keep them safe, fed, and happy.
However, when the current Valtia dies after protecting her people from a hostile invasion, Elli is named as the new Valtia. Excited to assume her position and have her magic appear, she accepts her new title as Valtia and begins the steps necessary to take over. Unfortunately, the magic doesn’t come to Elli, and despite several cruel tests organized by the Elders to help her powers emerge, Elli continues to remain non-magical. When she learns of the final test from her handmaiden Mim, she decides to flee and get away from the Elders before she ends up losing her life.
After fleeing the temple where she spent almost her entire life, she is forced out of the city and into the mountains and caves surrounding it, where a near death encounter causes her to be rescued by a group of people who are originally thought of as thieves and troublemakers, because they are inhabiting caves that contain copper (which is mined by the Kupari). As time goes on, the people make her feel at home, and she makes friends and lives with the family of a boy who rescued her. As she develops feelings for him, and he her, she begins to find out some strange things about herself that might be the cause of her non-developing magical powers.
I loved Elli’s character, because she was so brave in facing all of the obstacles that she had to face in order to claim her status as Valtia and keep her people safe. Even though she didn’t claim the magic that was promised to her, it was amazing to see how her character developed, from fragile and timid to a true queen: bold and determined. Her relationship with the boy who saves her is one of those slow building types that you can’t really be sure will blossom into anything or not, and I loved that about it, because I absolutely cannot stand insta-love in a book. Also, while it isn’t specifically brought up, you can tell that Elli is bisexual – she had a great deal of feelings for her handmaiden, Mim, and then again for a boy she encounters in the caves. It’s nice to see this in a YA novel, even more so when it isn’t constantly thrown in your face, but rather that it’s a subtle fact and isn’t that big of a deal. I felt the need to include this here, because it isn’t something that you see as often as we should.
The entire book is simply magical, and once you start reading you won’t want to put it down. The world building is so vivid and well done, which is something that is incredibly important in a fantasy novel to help you fully enjoy it. It does end on a note that makes you want more, but I recently have found out that this is going to be part of a series, so I’m going to be impatiently awaiting the next book!