by Sara B. Larson
Scholastic Press, $17.99 hardcover, ISBN-10 0545597587, January 2014
Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory. The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?
On the one hand, this book isn’t going to capture the hearts of serious fantasy fans. It reads like someone smashed together clunky rough drafts of Graceling and Throne of Glass. The prose is graceless, the dialogue wooden. Princes and royal guards in fantasy settings do not generally say “okay” and “you guys.” The somewhat-intriguing world building gets overshadowed by a love triangle whose ultimate resolution is obvious given that one of the suitors receives zero development for a huge chunk of the book.
On the other hand, as I said, the world-building is somewhat intriguing, and the fact that the characters talk like modern teens will give reluctant readers an easier foothold. Romance-hungry teen readers could do worse.
Recommend to: Fantasy romance fans, including reluctant readers
To buy or not to buy: Solid enough choice for medium to large YA collections
*This honest review refers to an ARC furnished by the publisher via NetGalley.