Cover Design: Heather Maddalozzo & John McKeogh
Book Depository: Paperback
Content Warnings: Violence; kidnap; cruelty; murder
Firstly, I would like to mention that I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, so thank you to Rebecca Crunden, and for remaining patient for my review. This is the first in a fantasy pentalogy surrounding a dystopian world where people are forced to support their kingdom by marrying and bearing as many children as possible, all whilst remaining obedient and unquestioning. Our main characters, Kitty and Nate are forced off the beaten track when they get stuck where they were never supposed to be in the first place. Will they survive against the odds? And if they do, at what cost?
Catherine Taenia’s life has always been comfortable – her father holds one of the most powerful positions within society, and she is betrothed to Thom Anteros, someone she has come to love dearly. The rest of her life is just within reach when herself and Thom’s brother Nate get caught out after Catherine cuts her foot on some glass containing a potentially deadly concoction left over from the kingdom’s secret experiments. Subsequently, life becomes increasingly difficult for Kitty and Nate as they attempt to evade the authorities and find a cure for their ailments, and Kitty realises the life she has been leading up until then has been built on deception and ignorance.
This book is a fast paced gem that explores totalitarianism, societal ignorance and corporal punishment through a fantasy lens. Kitty’s character development and learning curve is rich and allows the reader to root for her and understand her in a more well rounded manner. The relationships between each character are fully explored, even when a character may only appear for a short time, and we begin to get a glimpse into what it has been like for them to be controlled by a king who does not have all of their best interests at heart.
Although we are lucky not to live under totalitarian rule ourselves in the UK, there are countries in the world where the citizens are forced to live a certain way or meet death or forced labour. The fact that this book reflects these places makes it a more tense and uncomfortable reading experience, and it is important to bear in mind that although this is a fantasy series, it is based somewhat in fact. Crunden has done a good job at treating the subject material respectfully and giving readers a glimpse into what it may be like to be unable to necessarily fight back.
My one gripe with this book was the relationship between Kitty and Nate – I felt that Nate was being extraordinarily manipulative in the way he was interacting with Kitty and for someone who felt as though his brother was still alive, was acting immensely selfishly. Nate would simply not accept ‘no’ as an answer, and even bribed Kitty into giving him a chance romantically, which made me extremely uncomfortable. I understand that extreme situations can place pressure upon people and make them act out of character, but this was a bit much.
If you enjoy fantasy that is based with one foot in reality, and that explores situations that could quite easily exist, this one might be for you. I would be interested in continuing on with this series, and recommend it, especially as it is quick to read, despite being over three hundred pages.