If you like books that don’t have happy paths or happy endings, not everyone lives, and someone probably dies instead of fulfilling a romance ARC, Kylie Lee Baker’s books are for you. Shes an auto buy author for me at this point because I want that YA banter entwined in a darker, more visceral plot like this.
I liked Zilan, her cousins, and the prince especially. There’s a lot of family banter and exasperated antics, but then maybe they’re starving or resurrecting a corpse with alchemy or watching a child burn in the street. There’s humor and charm and an adorable but possibly evil baby duck too to lighten the mood.
I think the plot is great. The pacing is great. There’s political intrigue, alchemy, journeying, secrets in secrets, and according to the author’s note, a look at life in the Tang Dynasty for a poor merchant family. I like that Baker points out both accurate and inaccurate historical references so we know where she took liberties and what may have looked like real life.
What I like most about KLB’s writing is that whatever I expect is going to happen doesn’t. A lot of YA has fallen into a trap of quick romances and repetitive inner monologue and predictable plots and it’s kind of terrible. I don’t read much of it anymore. Zilan does have a bit of an inner monologue problem but overall, the book moved constantly forward and surprised me at most turns.
Would definitely recommend for fans of alternate historical fantasy, alchemy, and darker YA. The content is low for language and romance but high in death and violence so I’d say it’s appropriate for age 16+. Check it out and let me know what you think!