I’m gonna start this review by saying how amazing is this cover? Honestly, knew I wanted to read this book from when I first saw the cover. The moment I saw it on NetGalley, I requested it without a second thought. I knew this was going to be a dark and queer adult fantasy, and that’s most definitely what I got.
In this book, we follow Touraine, a soldier pulled from her family at a young age to join a Colonial army. And Luca, a princess who is trying to overcome a rebellion in the hope of sitting on the throne. This is very much a military fantasy, so if you like your politics blended with war, then this could definitely be the book for you.
It just wasn’t for me, sadly.
I’m going to start with the good because there were definitely some great things. I loved that this was based on a North African setting. I don’t think we really had enough of that, but I’ll come back to that later. I did love that there were hints of a realistic empire, one that was definitely wrong. And that you got to see the impact on several different countries, even though the book was only set in one. You got a glimpse of all these gods and types of magic. That’s the sort of thing I love, so I was very excited about this!
I also love that it’s queer. Luca is either bi or pan, Touraine, a lesbian. And there are other queer characters, including someone on the non-binary spectrum later in the book. These characters weren’t treated any differently than their hetero and cis counterparts. This is a world where no matter your gender or your sexuality, that’s accepted. There’s no homophobia or anything of the like, and that was so refreshing to see. Even women weren’t treated as less than men, and even that on its own is something I usually appreciate in fantasy books. So all of it together? Perfect.
Other aspects of the worldbuilding…well, I was disappointed. I requested this book expecting a North African fantasy. I didn’t know what countries exactly it would be inspired by. Not all the countries within the North of Africa are the same, after all. But instead, all I got was a sandy city with gods that did feel African, being overwhelmed by French oppressors. Okay, yeah, that happened in North Africa. But this book honestly felt like it could be set anywhere. You got tiny hints of food and culture, but this book was so focused on characters changing their minds and making mistakes that you didn’t get to see much of the world around them. I like political fantasy, but I still like to be able to picture the world the politics are happening in. And I didn’t really get to see that.
I wanted so much more.
I was fascinated by the magic system and the gods. And maybe with the ending, there will be more of that in book 2. But I got through nearly 500 pages and still barely know anything about this magic system that’s supposed to be so important. It’s frustrating, and I’m just so disappointed.
This book was also slow for the first half, and that wasn’t great either, but it wasn’t so bad that I wanted to put the book down. I also found it difficult to sympathise with Luca, considering some of the things she was willing to be okay with just to get her throne.
I, unfortunately, have to give this book a low score. But I’m pretty damn certain that many of you will love this book, even if I didn’t.