Summary: He was raised in revolution. She was raised in a palace. Can their love stop a war? Code Name Verity meets The Winner’s Curse in Joanna Hathaway’s Dark of the West, a breathtaking YA fantasy debut.
Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to step up to the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines. When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, he devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan undercover to Etania to gain intel from her children.
Athan’s mission becomes complicated when he finds himself falling for the girl he’s been tasked with spying upon. Aurelia feels the same attraction, all the while desperately seeking to stop the war threatening to break between the Southern territory and the old Northern kingdoms that control it—a war in which Athan’s father is determined to play a role. As diplomatic ties manage to just barely hold, the two teens struggle to remain loyal to their families and each other as they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe.
*I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge! Thank you for the opportunity!*
Release Date: February 5th, 2019
My Thoughts: This book was different than I had expected. It is billed as a fantasy novel, but other than being set in a fictional world, there were no fantasy elements whatsoever. It read more like a historical fiction war story- which is cool, but I kept waiting for the fantasy aspect to emerge and it never did. The fictional world is really in depth with complicated politics, which was amazing, but I found myself floundering without enough knowledge to fully grasp it all (I didn’t have the map in my ARC, and I think that would have helped me to understand it all better. There will be map in the official release.) In addition to the fully developed world, the characters were also pretty well formed and interesting- Athan especially. He was really likable and I empathized with him a lot. There was a great contrast between him and Aurelia and their relationship was sweet, however; I didn’t feel like it progressed enough. I loved their star-crossed lovers scenario, but I just wish there would have been a little more heat. In fact, the whole book was pretty slow and there wasn’t a lot of action. It was very politically focused, with intricate schemes and plans, and it felt like a set up for later action that didn’t come in this book. The last few chapters were a bit more exciting as things came to a head, and I did enjoy the twists, but I didn’t feel like there was enough plot driven action for the first book in a series. Overall, it was beautifully written with an interesting premise and characters, but it was a bit too slow for me to get fully on board.