Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Summary: A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.
Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.
The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?
I must say, I enjoyed this book. Alexa is a fantastic protagonist, and I love that she refuses to be a damsel in distress. She kicks everybody’s asses and saves everybody and she refuses to just lie back and do what the men tell her. I. Love. Her. She is my spirit animal and if I could call on a fictional character to have my back in a fight with the mafia, I would choose Alexa. Every time.
I will say it was a bit heavy on the romance, especially the love triangle situation, but that’s partly due to the fact that I would much rather see her fighting than making out with a guy, just because she’s so awesome at it. I would have found it more interesting if the animosity between her and Damian was real, or if Rylan was less of a Jacob Black clone. As it was, the love triangle annoyed me, especially because it seemed to transform Alexa into some starstruck idiot “discovering her newfound femininity.” And (slight spoiler), I was a bit bummed that there was no “OH MY GOD YOU’RE A GIRL WTF IS THIS” moment. Apparently Alexa is really shitty at pretending to be a boy. And apparently it’s not like anybody caught a glimpse of her lady bits; they just went “oh that’s a effeminate looking guy, must be a girl” and then went quietly about their business while allowing Alexa to keep believing she was the best fake boy to ever fake boy.
And when Damian is an ass (which, let’s be honest, is like once a page), Alexa takes none of it. She demands answers and is rightly furious at what he does, and although she does lose steam rather quickly, I still loved how feisty she is. By the end of that book, everybody and their mom knows not to mess with Alexa Hollen.
Also, SHE SAVES PEOPLE. There was no girl-plays-miniscule-role-in-actually-killing-bad-guy. Nope. This girl kicks the bad guy’s ass herself and becomes a national hero. It’s like Mulan except with a really not-cool king instead of an old emperor who is basically a Chinese Dumbledore.
Serious note: I was impressed with the inclusion of “breeding houses”. Rape is a really difficult and sensitive topic but I think the author approached it very well and it made me root for Alexa to succeed even more. Just the thought of what those girls were going through in that place is horrific, and it instantly made the plot so much more real and urgent for me. BUT, with that being said, I’ve heard other opinions and I know that not every reader will see it in that light. I can certainly see where it would come across as offensive, so just be aware of that.
Overall, I really enjoyed this. Alexa was an great protagonist and I’m very excited for the next book in the series!