What struck me about the Illustrians from the opening pages is they are the underdog in their nation. After being ousted from power, they have been pushed into a corner and only survive thanks to magic driven by the power of moonlight. The main character, Ximena, who masquerades as the condesa (countess) Catalina, longs to be her own person and to see her people restored to power by any means necessary. Part of that dream is her wish to use her moonlight-driven magic to weave beautiful tapestries for her people. I liked that the magic of this world was reflected in the cover art, and also that it reflected other Latin art.
There were a few things that I felt could have been approached differently. The surprise over the lack of food seemed a bit strange considering the condesa and her assistant were the ones who had already been rationing the food, so the state of the food stores should not have been a mystery, yet the opening paragraphs were written as if Ximena was entirely surprised at their predicament. I personally appreciated the references to various aspects of Latin culture, however I think that for others without much exposure to Latin culture, they may find it difficult to become immersed in reading the book as they grapple with terms and words that are unfamiliar to them. Finally, I considered it dishonorable to murder a messenger and his escort after they had delivered their message and cooperated with the demands of their host. It speaks to Ximena's resolve to find victory no matter the cost, however killing the messenger does not create a path to diplomacy either, and those murders may later come with a side of undesirable consequences for the Illustrians.
I felt that the strongest aspects in the book centered around the magic, the politics, and the interplay between Ximena and the true condesa. I'd like to find out what will happen to Ximena, Ana, Catalina, and Sofia as they fight to survive. I can't help but wonder if Ximena's or Sofia's magic has room to grow, given that Ana appears to be their true guardian and savior. I also wonder why Manuel appears to have been MIA for months now. What gives? I think it'll be interesting to see whether these women can find the strength to beat the Llacsans, or whether they'll be forced into unsavory situations they'd never imagined before. I can't wait to find out!
The cover is gorgeous and does a great job of hinting towards some of the elements we were introduced in the sneak peak.