This sister drama wrapped up in a paranormal romance novel is a violent delight. The political conflict is rich and complicated. However, this book has a ton of characters that bog it down when it could use some breath.
Gemma does not want to be called a princess. She is a war monk, and that is all. But she has become the right hand woman of her sister, the blacksmith queen, Queen Keely. Keely and Gemma have not always gotten along, but their other sister, Beatrix, has become an evil queen that must be stopped. With the help of their centaur companions, the sisters will fight to stop rogue Prince Cyrus, who has gone on a religious extermination spree.
I did not know what I was getting myself into when I won this book. I ordered the preceding novel the second I found out it was a sequel. I also did not know that it was a paranormal romance series.
The main love interests are centaurs.
To be honest, I thought that would be a problem but it wasn’t. I eventually got used to it. However, Quinn, Gemma’s love interest, is so much more interesting when he is not talking about Gemma. They have a bit of a good banter going on (and he is much more interesting than his brother from the first book). But spoiler, they have insta-love once they get intimate. It ruined all the tension built up for me. The whole relationship they had was “you hate me but we help each other for Keely” turned into “we are in love” in a second. The romance here also felt more like a subplot than a main plot. And the main plot was much more interesting.
The main plot is the sisters trying to fight multiple competing rulers and figuring out who is trying to oust religious sects. It is full of intrigue, mystery, and conflict. The characters have a lot to figure out to help bring Keely to power.
The real strengths of this novel are the female characters. Keely and Gemma are great, but there is also their cousin Keran, who is the worst in the best way, their sister Ainsley, who is ignored but a force to be reckoned with, and even Laila, the only truly interesting centaur. The dynamics between the women, and even with the antagonist, Beatrix, create the compelling plot of the story. I am more concerned about how Gemma is going to deal with the destruction of her monastery and how Keely will deal with her role as queen, than who will end up with who. Keely and Gemma have to lead two separate groups and complete two goals, and the groups are full of characters. I started to get confused with the different religious people in Gemma’s group, but I knew that they represented all the religions that Cyrus was trying to eliminate.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was a fun escape and a good romp. I would recommend it less to romance fans and more to female led fantasy fans, as it really leans into the fantastical and political. I hope that G. A. Aiken writes a third book (hopefully starring Ainsley) because I need to see the Smythe sisters take down Beatrix!