by Mara Rutherford
Release Date: August 27, 2019
Source: PublisherFor generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine…
Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.
Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen… and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.
In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie.
I haven't read nearly as many YA fantasy books lately as I used to, so when this book showed up from the publisher, I was so intrigued and couldn't help but pick it up as soon as I could!
If you're a person who loves an atmospheric read, you're going to love this book. The sea was such a central part to this story, especially in the first 100 pages, and was a part of Nor's soul, even when she left it to live in the castle in the mountain. It was so cool getting to learn where Nor came from and how their whole society worked. I did think the buildup took too long and I wish the action started with the royalty earlier than 180 pages in, but once Nor finally left her home, things started getting more dangerous and more unknown and I couldn't stop reading.
Nor is a twin and I really loved her dedication and loyalty to her sister. In their world, they competed their entire lives to be the most beautiful in order to be chosen to marry the prince, so I loved how close they were even while they had to live with that kind of weight on their shoulders. There was also a romance that I wasn't the biggest fan of (the pacing was a bit weird), but I am definitely intrigued to see what's going to happen in the next book!