Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, dreaming of an unremarkable life. But when her beloved father is found dead, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of a surprisingly unstable kingdom. What’s more, Hesina believes that her father was murdered—and that the killer is someone close to her.
Hesina’s court is packed full of dissemblers and deceivers eager to use the king’s death for political gain, each as plausibly guilty as the next. Her advisers would like her to blame the neighboring kingdom of Kendi’a, whose ruler has been mustering for war. Determined to find her father’s actual killer, Hesina does something desperate: she enlists the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by
death, since magic was outlawed centuries ago.
Using the information provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of Yan at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?
Publication Date: April 9, 2019 by Albert Whitman Company
“Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.”
Many thanks to the author Joan He for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
This was one of my most anticipated books this year and it absolutely did not disappoint! I’d already seen so many bloggers gushing about it, and I was especially so excited for the Asian (#ownvoices) representation in fantasy, since most books I read with Asians in them are contemporary! Well, if that sounds amazing to you as well, then look no farther than this book!
The setting and world building was phenomenal! I loved reading about the world, which seems to be like ancient China. There were so many little things, descriptions thrown in there, such as the robes the characters wear, that made my smol Asian heart so happy!
In addition, I love the fantasy world set up here. Magic, performed by sooths, has been outlawed, and the first chapters opens with Hesina committing treason in search of this magic which immediately pulled me in! But as the world develops, and we get to gradually see the rich and turbulent history of the land, the characters and readers start to question whether this is actually the right thing, and basically if everything they know is a lie (as is often the case for those poor hapless book characters) and basically it was just great.
I loved Hesina as a character! She becomes queen after the death of her father, a task difficult enough, and then in trying to investigate the unusual circumstances of his death, ends up learning and dealing with far more than she bargained with. The situation she’s thrown into is extraordinary, as is the way she deals with it! I loved seeing her grow as she learned more and more about her kingdom, and it’s historical and current circumstances, and is thrown into a world where really nothing is certain.
Hesina has a large unusual family, and I loved seeing her interact with all these characters. There are the twins, her adopted siblings who she shares a special bond with and has many funny moments I loved; there’s her full brother, who she shares a somewhat strained relationship with given the fact that her mother always loved her brother and never loved Hesina; there’s her half brother, a bastard child who kept popping up in unexpected ways throughout the story. All these relationships were so different and really showed different sides to Hesina, and then add in all the deceptions of the world and the fact that it’s really impossible to know the motives and loyalties of any of them and it’s crazy!
There’s just a small hint of romance here too and I was all about that romance! Hesina’s love interest is so dark and mysterious, and we know virtually nothing about him in the beginning and I loved the mystery unveiling around him! And also it’s just very romantic and swoony and it was definitely not over the top because there are so many fantasies with super high stakes and heroines who spend the entire time angsting about their love interest and not the fact that they’re about to die and this was definitely not one of those books; it did romance in just the perfect amount!
The ending with all the twists and turns was absolutely insane! I definitely did not see those twisty twists coming, and I basically flew through the last hundred pages or so as the stakes got higher and basically everything and everyone I thought I knew was a lie!!
What I didn’t love about this book was the very ending; it felt a unresolved and I would have liked more closure since this book is apparently a standalone. Also, the pacing wasn’t perfect; the book felt rather slow at the beginning compared to how fast and crazy it was at the end. Overall though, I still absolutely loved it!