I couldn't put it down!

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I had a fantastic time with this book! It has been a long time since I was able to read an entire book in a single day but it was so easy to get lost in this book. This wasn't a long book with less than 300 pages but I thought it told a big story. The story grabbed me from the start and the story progress at a perfect pace to keep the pages turning. I am so glad that I took a chance and decided to give this book a try.

This book is listed as a companion book to the author's Rise of the Empress series. When I started reading this book, I had no idea that it had any connection to another book and I still wouldn't if I didn't happen to see it on Goodreads. This book reads wonderfully as a stand-alone story. I am thinking I may need to read the other books in the series though just because I enjoyed this one so much.

This was a wonderfully imaginative fantasy. Bao has grown up as an orphan and knows that he is not worthy of those in the upper class. He has lived with a local physician and his family and is training as an apprentice. Lan is the daughter of an important man and has lived a rather charmed life. She is looking forward to setting a date for her wedding. Things fall apart for both Bao and Lan and their lives are forever changed. They must work together to beat a witch's curse and will have quite the adventure working towards that task.

I really liked both Bao and Lan and wanted to see them together. They have both made mistakes in their lives but they were really a victim of circumstances more than anything. When Bao needed help, Lan didn't hesitate and I loved seeing them work together towards a common goal. They didn't ask more of each other than they thought they would be willing to give. It was really nice getting to see them get to know each other away from the opinions of society.

I loved the way some magic was worked into the story. I thought that the curse was very well done and I liked how it evolved over the course of the story. I liked that the magic wasn't an overpowering part of the story but there was enough to add a really nice element to the story. This book had a very nice balance of action, romance, and magic.

I would recommend this book to others. I thought that this was a really well-done story that was a lot of fun to read. This was the first book by Julie C. Dao that I have had the chance to read but I wouldn't hesitate to pick up more of her work in the future.

I received an advanced review copy of this book from Philomel Books via Bookish First.