Zera is a Heartless – the immortal, unageing soldier of a witch. Bound to the witch Nightsinger ever since she saved her from the bandits who murdered her family, Zera longs for freedom from the woods they hide in. With her heart in a jar under Nightsinger’s control, she serves the witch unquestioningly.
Until Nightsinger asks Zera for a Prince’s heart in exchange for her own, with one addendum; if she’s discovered infiltrating the court, Nightsinger will destroy her heart rather than see her tortured by the witch-hating nobles.
Crown Prince Lucien d’Malvane hates the royal court as much as it loves him – every tutor too afraid to correct him and every girl jockeying for a place at his darkly handsome side. No one can challenge him – until the arrival of Lady Zera. She’s inelegant, smart-mouthed, carefree, and out for his blood. The Prince’s honor has him quickly aiming for her throat.
So begins a game of cat and mouse between a girl with nothing to lose and a boy who has it all.
Winner takes the loser’s heart.
With a brilliant and sassy protagonist like Zera, this book was bound to be entertaining at the very least, and Bring Me Their Hearts does a nice twist on a classic fairytale motif. In this fantasy, the humans have been enjoying a bit of peace after a terrible war with the witches, and established a newer religion that calls for witch eradication. Zera, one of the immortal warriors of a witch called Heartless since 3 years, has been given a mission from the witches – to get Prince Lucien’s heart to hold as hostage, and she is to pose as a potential bride to get close to him to cut out his heart. Obviously, her assassination attempt doesn’t go as planned, and she instead falls for the gentle and kindly prince. However, with an religious nut of an Archduke and some conspiracies, Zera has more than just her own heart to worry about.
The best part about the book are the character relationships. Zera and Lucien are, of course, entertaining with their bantering – him trying to act all cool but definitely isn’t and she not bowing down to any decorum BS, and such, but there are so many other awesome relationships between other characters. Zera is being mentored by Lady Y’shennria, as well as posing as her niece, and the dynamics between them are so well-done; the Lady has suffered in the last war and scarred by the Heartless and is initially wary of Zera, but soon they have quite an emotional bond, and she becomes family to Zera. Malachite was perfect as the prince’s personal bodyguard; he simultaneously wingmans him and also teases him regularly, kinda ruining the cool facade Lucien tries to keep in front of Zera. Fione’s burning desire to see her uncle, the Archduke, pay for his crimes and her alliance and subsequent friendship with Zera was also good.
As for the world-building, the book does a good job with the magic and cultural aspects, and even though at times the dialogue feels anachronistic for what feels like sort of a medieval fantasy, it makes it work. Besides the humans and the witches, there are two other races of warriors, and a type of underground monster, and they are a part of the war backstory if not the present. The magical aspect of the Heartless gives them a zombie-like quality, and the way it plays into Zera’s self-hatred was an interesting aspect of the story. She doesn’t have many of her memories as a human, and feels she is monster because of the lives she took, and seeing how Lucien cares for his people, it keeps her in a constant war with herself; she wants to be human again, but to be human again, she has to harm him. It also doesn’t help that her hunger for raw flesh means she also has cannibalistic thoughts invading her mind regularly. Right until the end, the book keeps us on tenterhooks as to what she would do, and then ends on a cliffhanger after the decision is made. It is not unpredictable – heck, much of the plot points in this book follow expected tropes – but the author infuses it with enough tension and raises the stakes enough to keep us engaged. The audiobook narrator also does a good job with Zera, bringing out her spark and humor, as well as her despair.
Overall, an entertaining book with a likeable sassy protagonist, and engaging writing.