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Within these pages lie kingdoms with castles and princes who fall in love with fair maidens, but make no mistake−this is no fairytale.

His father’s kingdom is on the brink of upheaval and at the center of it all is an ordinary girl who could be the key to its undoing. When faced with the ultimate choice, will he choose the girl he’s falling in love with or the kingdom he has sworn to protect?

An ordinary girl with an extraordinary past. All she wants is to be free. What she doesn’t realize is that freedom comes with a price she can’t afford to pay. She’s forced to accept the proposal of a prince she despises, even though her heart belongs to someone else . . . his brother.

Seventeen-year-old Rema lives in a brutal kingdom where travel between regions is forbidden, people are starving, and looking at someone the wrong way can mean death. Nineteen-year-old Darmik is the king’s son and Commander of the King’s Army. He spends his days roving the island, doing his father’s bidding and trying to maintain control over the people.

When a chance encounter throws Rema and Darmik together, they share an instantaneous connection, but any sort of relationship between them is strictly forbidden. Darmik’s brother, the Crown Prince, notices Darmik’s interest in Rema and, in a calculated, political move, blackmails her. Faced with an impossible choice, Rema is forced to sacrifice her heart in order to save her family.

As Rema is taken to the palace with the Crown Prince, Darmik confronts the growing rumor that a legitimate blood heir to the throne exists and is trying to overthrow Darmik’s family. In Darmik’s quest to hunt down and kill the threat, he discovers that nothing is as it seems. Locked in the king’s castle, Rema finds herself a key player in a massive power struggle. When Darmik shows up, she’s not sure if she can trust him. The line between friends, enemies, and loyalty becomes blurred. As truths are unlocked, Rema understands that she just might be the key to finding the rightful heir and restoring peace to the kingdom… if she can manage to stay alive long enough.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

It was love at first sight, the moment I saw that cover. (I am a sucker for swords and mysterious arches and all that, okay? Okay.) I’ve wanted to read this since it came out and when the chance came to grab it for free…well, how was I supposed to resist? It was simple. I couldn’t.

The plot:

This book is surprisingly short or at least it felt that way. Goodreads seems to be under the impression that it’s 342 printed pages, but I read it in a rather short amount of time. Maybe that was thanks to the succinct storytelling, not sure. There were parts of this that I actually thought should have been longer and/or had more description, just because I thought things went a little too fast. Yet the plot itself didn’t seem to suffer for it, so I suppose I can’t count off for that.

Readers should be forewarned that this book ends in a bloody cliffhanger that will make you scream at the book and demand where the next one is. If the second hadn’t already been released, I would be very deeply unamused.

The characters:

There are two perspectives in this book with the chapters alternating between Rema and Darmik.

Rema was a sweet girl with a strong sense of morality, a hidden strength, and a great love of horses. (The latter earned her instant likeability from yours truly.) She stood up to the royals and showed a lot of courage, but there were still parts where she fell to pieces—realistically so. Yet the scenes where she was breaking down were done well enough to never make her seem weak, just to make you hate the rotten guts of Darmik’s father and brother (and just a little bit of Darmik at some parts, too).

Darmik was the character I both wanted to hug and slap. At the core, he means well, he just goes about doing what’s best for the country the whole wrong way. Someone needs to get him to open his eyes to the truth, but he’s still one of those irresistible characters you can’t help root for even when he’s in the wrong. And regardless, I still love the poor slob to bits.

I don’t think was an overabundance of detailed development of the side characters besides the two protagonists and the two villains. They were fleshed out according to their importance, they just sort of paled to me in comparison to the leads. I am very fond of Neco and I heard he and Ellie are a couple in Red and think they could be so cute! Anyway…

As for the main villains—King Barjon and Prince Lennek—I may or may not have made plans to drop them off at a Mord Sith temple for the horrible fate they deserve. They really didn’t have any redeeming qualities, aside from perhaps Lennek’s photogenic nature, and were essentially a pair of spoiled, whiny little girls with autarchic power.

To sum up, I shall simply say this—I’m counting down to payday so I can download Red!

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