Full disclosure: this is not my genre of choice. I rarely read books in this genre. So how did I end up with this ARC from Bookish First? Well, I read the First Look and I was very intrigued and I decided to step out of my comfort zone. Then Covid hit and shipments were delayed and then my reading took a nosedive and then I forgot how much I enjoyed the First Look so it sat on my counter for months, beckoning me to read it. I kept procrastinating because just looking at that cover sent me into spasms of thinking What did I do?????
Finally I brought myself to crack it open and my initial reaction was to be overwhelmed. This book is filled with a world unfamiliar to me. Names, places, titles, all of it was new. I struggled at first to follow along, to become invested. But I finally found my groove and then I recalled why I enjoyed the First Look so much. This book is well written. It's engaging. It's interesting. It checks a lot of boxes of things that make a book great, in my opinion. Although it took me an exceedingly long time to get through this book, it wasn't the fault of the book by any means. I found myself rooting for Dyeawan (and ultimately a bit surprised by her), intrigued by Evie and Brio, and crushing on Taru. My only moment of pause came in the last remaining pages in the book, when a surprising physical relationship evolved. It felt a bit gratuitous and jarring.....kind of like it was stuck in there as an afterthought. I didn't feel like it flowed with the rest of the book and there was not really any set up for it that I could see. Although, this is the first book in a series so hopefully that relationship will become better fleshed out in the future.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book just as much as I expected to when I read the First Look. I would definitely read the next in the series, which says a lot about how much I liked it.