A princess longing to be free…
On the dawn of her courtship trials, Princess Lyana Aethionus knows she should be focused on winning her perfect mate, yet her thoughts wander to the open sky waiting at the edge of her floating kingdom. One final adventure calls. Upon fleeing the palace, the last thing she expects to find is a raven prince locked in a death match with a dragon.
A bastard aching to belong…
Reviled son of a dead king, Rafe would do anything for his beloved half-brother, Prince Lysander Taetanus, including posing as him in the upcoming courtship trials. When a dragon interrupts their secret exchange, he orders his studious sibling to run. After suffering a fatal blow, Rafe is saved by a beautiful dove who possesses forbidden magic, just like him.
Fate brought them together, now destiny will tear them apart…
Unknown to the world above, on the foggy sea ten thousand feet below, a young king fights a forgotten war. He believes Lyana is the queen prophesied to save the world, and with the help of his favored spy, hidden deep in the highest ranks of the dove royal house, he will stop at nothing to have her.
Warnings: violence and grievous injury; self-harm; mutilation; internalized ableism
My favorite thing about this book is the world-building and Lyana. So I’ve read stories about floating worlds suspended in the atmosphere before, but this is probably the first one with winged people. Lyana’s world consists of seven lands suspended high up in the atmosphere above the cloud cover (I’m assuming that’s what the Sea of Mist is) and their lore says that they were raised there by their gods to save them from persecution on the ground; they don’t think that life remains on the ground, and because of their faith, they don’t really check. The seven lands have seven avian Houses, who meet up every generation to exchange heirs in marriage, after a whole series of competitions called the courtship trials. There’s a whole warring world down there that they don’t know about, and there is a plan afoot to get Lyana, as she is the prophesized Queen for the people below.
When she meets Rafe, under his cover of his half-brother’s identity, she becomes determined to have him be her mate, as they share a secret magic. Now as this is a Tristan and Isolde retelling, he is actually winning a mate for his brother Xander’s sake, who feels he can’t compete because of his disability. But unfortunately for all of them, she and Rafe have already started to fall for each other, while Xander hopes for a life of growing love with his mate. I wasn’t particularly convinced by Rafe’s and Lyana’s romance to be honest, because it seemed insta-love at best, and aside from the magic thing, they don’t really feel compatible. Also, most of their chemistry comes from Lyana, who is mischievous, playful, and kind-hearted; her cheerfulness contrasted with Rafe’s broodiness makes for an easily established romance. Xander’s and Rafe’s relationship was interesting because the latter is a bastard of the King, but they love each other like full siblings; the fact that their father cheated on the queen is the whole reason Rafe is hesitant over responding to Lyana even before she is to be wed to his brother and fuels Xander’s insecurity and the queen’s suspicions (which ultimately come true anyway). Cess was an interesting addition, because she gives a ‘wider view’ of the things going on, as she can spy on other characters, thus filling in the blanks between the other PoV, and also providing insight into the world below. I’m a bit horrified by what she did towards the end, though, so still digesting that.
On the whole, it is an interesting start to a fantasy, and I’m eager to see what the consequences from the ending bring into the sequel.
Is it diverse? black main character; disabled main character; secondary PoC characters
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Kaitlyn Davis Mosca, via Netgalley.
Releases on March 9, 2020