Cover Image: Shatter the Sky

Shatter the Sky

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When Maren's girlfriend Kaia is taken by the Aurati to join their evil ranks, Maren decides to save her girlfriend the only way she knows how—by infiltrating the emperor's dragon fortress, stealing a dragon, and then storming the Aurati stronghold. It's impossible, but Maren is determined to be reunited with her love.

This is a story that I probably would have adored 4-5 years ago.

Dragons. High stakes. Rebellion. A bisexual heroine in a fantasy world where queerness is accepted and normal.

And yet.

Maren has absolutely no personality beyond "I must save my girlfriend!" Absolutely none. Which made me roll my eyes at everything else that happened to her, because it just felt like she was going through the motions of the plot—and is suddenly good at everything she does.

She has an amazing sense of smell. Somehow learns enough of what the Aromatory does (after that women dedicated her life to her work) in like, a month to recreate vials and potions well enough to train dragons—and oh, learns enough to be able to control dragons and know what is best for them. Everyone she meets wants to flirt with her or kiss her (for the most part, but it happened enough that I rolled my eyes so hard I felt like they were going to fall out of my head), and she is weirdly attracted to Sev for no real reason I can see? I dunno. Plus, in a turn that should surprise no one, in a leap of really blessed logic, this Mary Sue magically deduces (view spoiler)

None of the other characters were developed enough to really pay attention to. The only ones I found partially interesting where the Aromatory and the SPOILER, but they had such a small role in the entire book.

As for the rest of the story. I just. I don't know.

I wanted to love the world-building, but it felt all over the place and contradictory at times. Maren's understanding of the world waffled between ignorant little mountain girl to all-knowing savant, and it complicated the world-building and how everything worked.

Plus, her attitude towards the rebels (of course there are rebels and of course Maren meets them), is, "OMG you people are such phonies! You only want dragons for your own selfish reasons", hypocritically ignoring the fact that 1) she just met them 10 minutes ago and 2) for the past 2/3 of the book she too had been trying to acquire a dragon for her own selfish reasons—chiefly, rescue her girlfriend.

So. Things I appreciated:

1. Super queer world.
2. People of color prominently featured, even if the cover feels lacking
3. Dragons

Things I really did not like at all:

1. Bland, Mary Sue MC
2. Bland, generic plot (but with dragons)
3. Bland, half-assed love triangle

This is not a bad book, but it was definitely one that I should have DNF'd 50 pages in. But I didn't, and while things perked up around page 100 (when Maren finally finagles her way in as the Aromatory's apprentice), things devolved considerably once she leaves the dragon fortress.

However, my experience isn't one-size-fits-all.

This might be the book for you (did I mention there were bisexuals and dragons??).

It just wasn't the book for me.

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
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When people recommend Shatter the Sky as a sapphic fantasy novel, they’re very much right but at the same time, it doesn’t explain just how sapphic the book. We’re not used to being fed this well, and yet it’s exactly what we deserve.

The book opens with the (bi!) mc talking about how much she loves her girlfriend. That’s revolutionary. And that love is used as a catalyst for all future events. Quite literally nothing would happen, if Maren wasn’t in love with Kaia and wasn’t determined to do everything in her power to get back together.

If, like pretty much everyone else on the planet, you are charmed by stories of heroes rescuing the love of their life, but you’re also tired of reading about a male knight in a shining armor again and again - this is the book for you. It hits all the usual fantasy tropes, while also providing readers with a strong female protagonist. 

This isn’t to say that it’s a predictable book, though! It manages to provide a breath of fresh air plot-wise as well. That’s actually a big strength of Shatter the Sky: while using well known tropes, it creates a brand new story & makes the reader realise things are not always what they seem. And that sometimes you need to grow up first, in order to fulfill your destiny.

(Also, there’s a mother of dragons here. Girls can have some dragons, as a treat.)
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A reluctant hero, captive dragons, kidnapped heartmate, and a brewing rebellion.

The concept of this book was really exciting, particularly the queer MC and dragons, and while in certain aspects it fell short, in others it was really successful. My favorite part was the dragons and the way they were built into the world, particularly with the function of the Aromatory and dragon bonds. I loved the way music and dragon songs were incorporated into the land and the story, and in particular how this becomes a way that Maren communicates with the dragons.

There were multiple queer identities represented, all of which seemed to be completely respected and normalized in this world, which was lovely to read. And a sapphic lead!

But as interesting as parts of the worldbuilding for the fantasy aspect of the novel were, initially the story was quite oversaturated with information in regards to the history of the land and the structure of the conquering nation, to the point where it became confusing. And for me where the story really fell short was in the romance between Maren and Kaia. Even though Kaia's kidnapping is driving force in Maren's journey, I honestly wasn't that invested in their relationship; I didn't feel that all-consuming passion that would drive one to steal a dragon. There is a lot of telling by Maren about how wonderful Kaia is, but we don't actually see it all that much. Concurrently I was thrown by the dynamic the develops between Maren and Sev later in the story as it begins to skew towards romance. A love triangle where one of the pairings was queer would have been interesting and novel to read, but because Maren was already in a relationship with Kaia, it just felt uncomfortable. Both of Maren's relationships would have improved had there been more time to foster deeper connections beyond the romance.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this, and am super excited to read the sequel and find out what happens after that cliffhanger!
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I had started reading this a while back, but I ended up not finishing the book. The premise sounded great. Two females in love who are torn apart, but the plot fell apart after the beginning and I ended up not getting to far into the story.
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Shatter the Sky is a suspenseful and promising start to a fantasy series that has the elements of a classic fantasy: dragons, prophecies, and an evil empire. Unlike many fantasy classics of the past, however, diversity is built into the world, with people of color, same-gender couples, and nonbinary characters using they/them pronouns all normalized. The story follows Maren, a biracial and bisexual girl as she leaves her conquered homeland in the mountains to rescue her girlfriend who has been kidnapped by agents of the empire.  What begins as a simple personal quest becomes much more when she meets new friends who are more than what they seem, uncovers dangerous knowledge with the power to change the fate of the empire, and learns of hidden powers in herself. The story starts a bit slow but picks up and builds to a satisfying climax and leaves you eagerly anticipating the sequel and the adventures that await Maren and her loved ones, friends, and allies.
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YESSSSSSSSSS MY Bi/Pan/Multi-Sexual DRAGON QUEEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Want the fantasy without the filler?
Want the mousy girlfriend to be the MC?

I can't do a full reaction gif fangirl hype review right now as I'm still at work, BUT FUCK YES.
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I really really enjoyed this book. 
I haven’t read fantasy or young adult in general in a WHILE because I’ve been on such a new adult romance kick, and this was a great book to get me back into this genre. I loved the unique characters and the story. It was powerful and inspiring and I can’t wait to read the continuation. The book was well written and very pleasant to listen to, I loved how fast paced it was. This was an amazing debut in my opinion. I doubt writing fantasy is easy in any way, so to come out with a debut this strong must mean serious talent. I’m not sure why so many people are hating on the “bi rep” throughout the book but I found nothing wrong with the way the author wrote it. The MC wasn’t “swayed” or fell in love with anyone that flirted with her. If anything, she showed her true love to Kaia and maybe had a moment of weakness at a stressful time, when she was clearly overcome with emotion and strong feelings of trust and a new friendship. I don’t see what bisexuality has anything to do with that. The two side characters may as well have both been guys or girls, but I did enjoy the diversity this brought into the book. I love that it wasn’t the main focus of the book in any way, but also how normal it was in this world to be bisexual or gay. 

Thank you Netgalley for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!
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Decent book about dragons. I felt somewhat uninterested in the story’s beginning, but toward the end came of enjoy the characters and their relationships. Not the best dragon fantasy of the year, but still pretty good.
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An excellent start to a new series, I loved the main character Maren and how she leaves her village home to rescue the one she loves. As she goes through many trials and obstacles, she sees that there is more to the world that she first let herself see. We also see her grow and mature and become someone she never thought she would ever be. She is truly one of the best main characters I’ve read in a long time.
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Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this book.

When I saw this title for "read now" on NetGalley I instantly hit download. However, I didn't realise that the ebook wouldn't be available on my Kindle and I really struggle to read full-length novels on anything but a Kindle as it brings on headaches for me. 

I did try reading on my iPad at a slower pace, but then the book expired and I couldn't access it anymore. 

What I did manage to read, I really enjoyed and I hope one day I will be able to get a copy and read it all! Dragons, fantasy, LGBTQ+ rep and adventure is definitely too good to pass up.
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This is the start of a fantasy series and while it may not be my normal genre...it had LGBT characters and dragons. So that sealed the deal for me, Maren must become an apprentice to a dragon trainer in order to save her girlfriend Kaia who was kidnapped and forced to join the Aurati. We follow the storyline of this and find out if she is going to be able to rescue Kaia, or if that is what she is really meant to be doing at all. It sets the stage for the second book which I will be reading.
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Oh goodness, where to start?! Shatter the Sky had the perfect recipe for me, LGBT love, dragons, and a bad ass girl who steals them. LIKE HOW CAN I NOT LOVE THIS BOOK!?  

Shatter the Sky follows Maren, a girl from a conquered mountain town, who was completely content in her small town life -- until during a yearly ceremony, her girlfriend Kaia is taken by the Aurati - the king's agency of soldiers, dragon riders and more.  When we come into the story, Maren and Kaia are already a couple, madly in love and ready to spend their lives together. Unfortunately, Kaia wants that to be out in the world beyond their small  village, while Maren is content to live there for their days, as safe as they can be from the outside world. 

When Kaia is taken, Maren realizes how easily the outside world can seep into their small community and demolish it with a swift heartbreak. While the town and her parents urge her to move on, Maren refuses. Instead, she concocts a daring plan to get to Kaia, no matter the costs .Through the cities and deadly lies, Maren makes allies and friends, all helpful on her task to save Kaia. 

The most stand out character in the entire book for me was Neve. She was brilliantly written, and had several layers. I was genuinely upset that we had to leave her behind, and while I knew from the start it was a story about Maren and Kaia, I found myself wanting more of Neve. She was definitely an underrated character in this entire thing! 

Maren, oh Maren. She could have been everything, yet it felt like the author spent most of her energy on the secondary characters. This had a huge impact on the story, even losing me a couple times because it was only Maren in the scene and nothing was happening. While I do LIKE Maren, she was much too flat for a MC. 

I really hope to get to know Kaia more in the next book. Her attitude was filled such sass and confidence that I fell instantly in love with her, despite seeing very little of her during the novel. I really hope that she will have a larger role in the sequel, and kick Maren in the butt for her silliness. 

I geniunely did not like Sev, and yes I'm completely biased. I found his character charming, but the moment that he and Maren started flirting, I was done with him. He was a very one dimensional character, for me. 


I really felt like the plot was completely up and down. The pacing was so off, causing huge slumps in the book, followed by very fast paced scenes that some times didn't make much sense.  There were plot holes, but I don't want to spoil the book, and honestly, I'm hoping they will be answered in the next book (but not getting my hope up too high). 
For me personally, I felt like there were a few really big moral issues with this novel, and that would be why it did not get a 4 star rating for me.  While I understand that the MC is a bisexual girl, she was in a committed relationship when this book began. Never in the story did it say that they were giving up on each other, romantically or otherwise... So -- when Sev came along, things really took a turn for the worse. 

I really feel like Maren did some emotional cheating, regardless of if Kaia was locked away somewhere. They did not end their relationship when she left, and I felt like that was a serious blow for the bisexual population. So many times in books I see the bi girl ending up with the boy, and while that's perfectly fine, it's a real issue to me personally and has been for a long time. Cheating of any kind IS NOT OK.! 

The writing style was decent. It wasn't spectacularly lyrical, or over the top - it got the job done. While I did find a few quotable lines, over all - it read more as a MG  than a YA. If MG is too young for your taste, I would stay away from this one. 

Overall, I felt like this was a decent story, filled with strong girls, dragons and magic. If that seems like your thing, I encourage you to pick it up and give it a chance. While I wasn't OVERLY thrilled with this debut, I am intrigued enough to read the second, and probably the third one as well. :)  While I do feel like this is a 4 star book, I had a really hard time swallowing the confused love when it's in a setting like this, lowering my final rating to 3 stars.
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DRAGONS!

STRONG FEMALES!

We don't need men to rescue us!

(Why does this have to be a series? WHY AREN'T ALL THE BOOK OUT NOW!?)

I really did enjoy reading Shatter the Sky. The history of the world was easy to learn. I enjoyed the relationship building and Maren's dedication to Kala. I can't wait to read more book in this series.
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Unable to read due to formatting. Please consider noting if books are Kindle compatible or just PDF prior to approval, as I can only read Kindle formatted books.
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When I first heard about Shatter the Sky, I couldn't wait. Dragons + the main character rescuing her girlfriend? It sounded fantastic. But I struggled to connect with the book, despite absolutely loving some parts of it.

So the dragon aspect of this book was my favorite (perhaps unsurprisingly). While I wish we'd gotten to see more of them, I thought the way different characters/societies interacted with the dragons was fascinating. Overall, I'd thought this book would be way more dragon-centric than it was and was a bit disappointed by how infrequently the dragons actually made an appearance. 

Part of why I struggled to connect with this book is that it progressed really slowly. The first half of the book took me quite a while to get through because I wasn't that engaged. Plus Maren and Kaia's relationship never really worked for me since we saw so little of it. Since the entire book is based on Maren's desire to rescue Kaia, I would have preferred to actually see more of their relationship rather than just be told how wonderful it was. 

I'm not sure that I'll be continuing this series. However, I think that there are plenty of readers out there who will love this story. It had many wonderful aspects but just didn't really work for me. 

*Disclaimer: I received an advanced digital copy of this book for free from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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C minus SBTB review: https://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/reviews/shatter-the-sky-by-rebecca-kim-wells/

“I don’t dislike everything about this book. I’m a sucker for anything dragons (thank you, Dragon Tales on PBS), I love the diverse fantasy setting, and my interest significantly picked up in the last quarter of the book. But while I acknowledge that some parts of the story intrigued me, I spent most of my time bored or annoyed. That’s not any kind of endorsement for a positive reading experience.”

Read more in the link
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This book has all of the ingredients, but didn't work for me.


Ingredients: f/f romance, bisexual heroine, DRAGONS


But... the female love interest is taken away from their village at the beginning of the book and the main character's epic quest is to get her back. This is all well and good, but we don't see the love interest again until the last few pages of the book. Major bummer.


Worse? There's a boy with a big secret (you will easily figure it out) and they're eventually on the trip together... and flirting. There's so much flirting that it felt like cheating. The MC is even thinking about how she's not really cheating? But maybe? It's a love triangle which is not for everyone, but I'm definitely more into LT's if the MC isn't already in a relationship with one of them. I'm also pretty solidly over the conceit that the MC is attractive to literally every person she meets, and I had a hard time separating the love triangle from the stereotype that bisexuals are cheaters.

So. Dragons are good. I like dragons. And this book has the trappings of a traditional epic fantasy series, but with Asian and queer rep.

A lot of people have enjoyed it, so maybe check out some other reviews.

Content Warnings: sort of kidnapping?, lots of violence, fear of poisoning


Suzanne received a digital review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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Disclaimer: I received this book on Netgalley! Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book Series: Shatter the Sky Book 1

Rating: 4/5

Publication Date: July 30, 2019

Diversity: bisexual heroine f/f relationship, maybe biracial?

Genre: YA Fantasy

Recommended Age:

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Synopsis: Raised among the ruins of a conquered mountain nation, Maren dreams only of sharing a quiet life with her girlfriend Kaia—until the day Kaia is abducted by the Aurati, prophetic agents of the emperor, and forced to join their ranks. Desperate to save her, Maren hatches a plan to steal one of the emperor’s coveted dragons and storm the Aurati stronghold.

If Maren is to have any hope of succeeding, she must become an apprentice to the Aromatory—the emperor’s mysterious dragon trainer. But Maren is unprepared for the dangerous secrets she uncovers: rumors of a lost prince, a brewing rebellion, and a prophecy that threatens to shatter the empire itself. Not to mention the strange dreams she’s been having about a beast deep underground…

With time running out, can Maren survive long enough to rescue Kaia from impending death? Or could it be that Maren is destined for something greater than she could have ever imagined?

Review: As far as a fantasy I really liked this book. It was solid fantasy with great writing and solid characters. The story was made more fun and amazing with the inclusion of a bisexual girl who is in search of her missing girlfriend. I loved the world building as well.

However, the pacing slows in the middle and the book is predictable. I also think the book didn't have enough focus on the main character and her own character rather than this prophesized mysterious prince.

Verdict: A solid start to a series!
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Many thanks to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. 

Sapphic romance, a country in turmoil, dragons dragoning, kidnapped maidens, and a quest to save one’s “heartmate”. Do I have your attention yet? On paper, this book sounds perfect, right? It ticks all the boxes. I am a weak, simple bookdragon, so how could I possibly resist?!

I’m going to be upfront and admit that I came really close to DNFing it (and would have, if not assured that the ending was worth it). Ultimately, it was an enjoyable book, if not quite delivering on the promises laid out in its blurb.

I think this just ended up being a case of not the right book for me, personally. When I picked it up, I was expecting some sort of epic adventure quest sort of book with a go-getter character. Instead, it felt more like a Bildungsroman (coming of age) story. Had I known that, would I have picked it up? Probably not, simply because I know I tend not to enjoy coming-of-age stories, personally.

With all that being said, though, the end was pretty much exactly what I originally expected. So do I intend to read the sequel? Yeah, probably.

My Thoughts:

- Move over, Prince Charming. Girls got this covered. Maren is a normal homebody girl with seemingly no talents. She’s pretty much as average as they come. But why should that stop her from saving the day? I loved Maren’s character arc in this one, because she doesn’t magically become a new character over the course of the book. She just learns to trust herself. I also really enjoyed that a woman gets to save the day. This isn’t at the detriment to men (in fact, there’s a male character that plays a large role in the story). But it is a nice change to the stereotypical damsel needing rescuing from the big, strong man.

- Maren has one of the most awesome arcs, of an average, homebody girl discovering the world and learning that she is, indeed, more capable than she ever imagined. Of all the arcs I’ve read, I think Maren’s is definitely one of the strongest. It comes in bits and pieces as she focuses on her goal and is derailed time and time again, so she has to rework and scheme. Watching her evolve from a sort of blah humbug character to the strong woman I hoped she’d be was really a nice transformation.

- Book has dragons. What more do you need? Plus, it treats them in a bit of a unique way. What I really liked about these dragons is that not only do they bond (or not, sometimes) with a single person, but this is accomplished through aromatherapy, basically. Because dragons have really sensitive snoots, of course. I haven’t seen this done before, but I enjoyed how the different scents could elicit different emotions in the dragons.

- The ending was pretty much everything I had hoped the book would be and wow did it really kick into gear at the end there. I mean, you know I can’t actually talk about any of it, right? There’s definitely a lot to love about the last 15% or so of the book. It felt more like the book I had been expecting, so it gives me a lot of hope for the sequel.

Sticking Points:

- I feel like there was some disconnect between what the blurb says the book’s about and what the book is actually about, which is a shame, because I loved the idea of it. The blurb sounds very much like a badass female risking it all for the woman she loves, and this is that … sort of. But more than that, it feels like a bildungsroman, where a self-doubting girl from a small town leaves it for the first time to rescue the girl she loves, but then discovers the world is a really big place and feelings are complicated and she learns about herself. Which would have been fine … if that was the book I had thought I was picking up.

The main character, Maren, isn’t just lesbian; she’s bi. Which means that, of course, there’s a love triangle with a guy. Which, don’t get me wrong, bi rep is cool and all, buuut … that’s not what I was here for? Considering the F/F relationship gets, like, 5% screentime and the other side of the triangle gets, like, 50% … welp, the triangle didn’t exactly feel isosceles, okay?

- Everything’s a little too easy for Maren. Sure, things come up that inconvenience her, but then she magically has some sort of coveted skill or ability or meets just the right person who decides to help her. It never feels like she really works for anything, but is sort of just handed all the answers.

- The timeline felt a little wonky to me, and was both too rushed and too slow. It’s a weird dichotomy. A lot of this book is traveling, but a lot is also at the hatchery. Neither of which was particularly overly exciting?

- I don’t like Kaia. There, I said it. I know, it breaks my heart, too. The problem here, I think, is twofold, because on paper, Kaia sounds like she’d easily be my favorite character. Sarcastic, confident, take-charge attitude. What’s not to love? First, Kaia appears very little in the story, by necessity, so we don’t actually really get to know her as a character. We have to learn about her through other people—mostly Maren. Which is where point two comes in: despite loving her, Maren talks about Kaia in an almost jealous tone, making her sound like a Mary Sue, but in a negative way.

Since this is Maren’s story, and I get to know Maren the most, I want Maren to be happy. But the way Maren talks about Kaia, there’s no way that, in my mind, she can possibly be happy with Kaia, because she’ll always be living in her shadow or feeling less than somehow. Which again, I came here for the badass F/F power couple! So this was incredibly frustrating for me. Listen, even if this couple remains endgame, it will always be tainted for me and one that I just can’t support.

- Maren’s hypocrisy really just drove me absolutely bonkers. She gets mad at others for keeping secrets, even though she’s keeping secrets herself. She trusts no one (probably a good idea, to be honest), but at the same time expects everyone to just inherently trust her and is mad when they don’t because how dare they keep things from her and not tell her everything. She’s mad at those evil people who would enslave dragons and use them for their own purposes … but hypocrite much? I just wanted to shake someone because hellooooo, nothing you’re currently doing is in order to directly benefit dragons, either. You only want to steal a dragon to serve your own purpose, too.

- This is really nitpicky and I’m going to own that, but … Maren on the cover looks nothing like Maren that’s described in the books to me. I mean, for one, her skin color is often described as reddish and tanned, compared to light on clay, for example, so I was expecting something that looked a little less … East Asian? I think the world was supposed to be an Asian-inspired one, but I guess I missed it. I didn’t get that feel, but to be fair, I also don’t think I paid that much attention. Also, at the point where Maren would be holding a knife, she was imitating the hairstyle of that culture, where women plaited their hair, sometimes with smaller braids on the side of their head, and that hairstyle sounds so freaking interesting. I’m disappointed not to get the chance to see it. Again, this has no real bearing on the rating or anything. Just something that struck me as I was reading and looking at the cover.
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This book was so, so good!! It had adventure, romance, LGBTQ+ representation, potential love triangle, dragons - what’s not to love?? I couldn’t put this book down, and I couldn’t read it fast enough!

I really loved the character development with our main character, Maren. She starts out basically living in the shadow of her super amazing girlfriend (though, I never really understood what made her so special). By the end of this book, we see Maren come out of her shell and become the incredible, independent woman she never realized she could be. The transformation is glorious. Though I love that this started out as an epic quest to save her girlfriend, I kind of want Maren to either end up in her own, or with the prince (I know, that’s probably the unpopular opinion, but I just never really liked Kaia).

At any rate, I am absolutely on the edge of my seat waiting for book 2!!

*A review of this book will appear on GoodReads, my personal blog, and retail sites. Thank you to the publisher for the free advance copy in exchange for my fair and honest review.*
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