When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.
Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.
Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.
With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?
“Passion is wholehearted devotion; it is fervor and agony; it is temper and zeal.”
Brienna was entered Magnalia house to master a passion when she was seven. But unlike the other five girls, she knows that she isn’t drawn to one passion. She isn’t meant to be there. She’s there because of who her father is, a man she suspects to be powerful and dangerous from the neighboring queen’s land of Maevena.
Nevertheless, she tries her hardest, switching from one passion to another before finally settling on knowledge. However, on the night she’s been working for for seven hard years, the night when she was finally supposed to be chosen by a patron, she is turned down by them all. Instead, months later, she finds herself being accepted by a mysterious patron with other motives, motives to draw her into a plot to overthrow the kind of Maevena and put a queen on the throne, a plot that Brienna may have a much greater connection than she ever could have anticipated.
Ross has set up a wonderfully complex world. I loved learning more about it, about the two kingdoms. It was interesting to see the role that the girls, the passions had in society of Valenia. And even more intriguing was to see the history of Maevena, how the two kingdoms interacted, and how Brienna was drawn into it all.
I thought that the characters were all very well done and fleshed out as well. I really loved reading about the fun sister-like relationship that Brienna had with the other passion girls of Magnalia house at the beginning. And her patron, his family, and all the others that Brienna becomes connected with were great, complex characters as well. It was amazing to see how there were some characters in the beginning that seemed to disappear, and then reappear later as the whole story came together. My only problem was that there were so many names, and some characters went by multiple names, so it could be hard at time to remember who everyone was.
One thing that I noticed was that I felt like the beginning and the ending of the book didn’t tie together very well. It kind of felt like it was two different books: the one of Brienna at Magnalia house, and the one of Brienna post Magnalia house. I didn’t really understand how her passion fit into the story after Magnalia house, and it almost made the beginning of the story feel unnecessary.
This book could also be a bit boring at times. There were some parts that didn’t really seem to connect to the plot, and some boring passages that just talked about history and stuff. I also wasn’t entirely interested in the random flashbacks that she kept having about her ancestors.
Warning: there is a family tree in the beginning of the book that gives away a huge reveal/plot twist from the end of the book. I didn’t read it because I usually don’t read beginning stuff in books, and I’m so glad because that pretty much spoils everything. I highly recommend you do not read the family tree!
The ending was easily my favorite part of the book. The action and pacing picked up a lot from the beginning of the book, and it drew me in and made me really interested. I really liked Brienna’s character growth at the end, and how she was often conflicted between two parts of herself, but always made the right choice.
3.5 out of 5 deep blue stars
You can also read my review on Goodreads here.