One is merry and bright, her eyes a vibrant hue, their color blinding.
After a moment they turn back to their play, ignoring me.
Except now there is no more singing - only the darkness of the room as the curtains close against the light, and the dream fades.
One beautiful and strong.
One plain and powerless.
Only one shall be queen ...
And the other shall serve her.
But as I awake from sleep, I still do not know -
Which one of them is my daughter?
And which one is the traitor?
I'm a big fan of Melissa de la Cruz's work - I also got to interview her in October 2012 - and this is her newest - bringing us to the early 20th century during the "London Season," where royalty and rich commoners mingle in order to propose marriage. The novel focuses on four girls, two of whom desperately want to marry a rich lord and two of whom couldn't really care less; Princess Marie-Victoria, who has just been engaged to Prince Leopold, whom she dislikes, and Aelwyn, a sorceress who is also Marie-Victoria's childhood friend.
Princess Marie-Victoria, heir to the Lily Throne, and Aelwyn Myrddn, bastard daughter of the Mage of England, grew up together. But who will rule, and who will serve?
Quiet and gentle, Marie has never lived up to the ambitions of her mother, Queen Eleanor the Second, Supreme Ruler of the Franco-British Empire. With the help of her Head Merlin, Emrys, Eleanor has maintained her stranglehold on the world's only source of magic. She rules the most powerful empire the world has ever seen.
But even with the aid of Emrys' magic, Eleanor's extended lifespan is nearing its end. The princess must marry and produce an heir or the Empire will be vulnerable to its greatest enemy, Prussia. The two kingdoms must unite to end the war, and the only solution is a match between Marie and Prince Leopold VII, heir to the Prussian throne. But Marie has always loved Gill, her childhood friend and soldier of the Queen's Guard.
Together, Marie and Aelwyn, a powerful magician in her own right, come up with a plan. Aelwyn will take on Marie's face, allowing the princess to escape with Gill and live the quiet life she's always wanted. And Aelwyn will get what she's always dreamed of--the chance to rule. But the court intrigue and hunger for power in Lenoran England run deeper than anyone could imagine. In the end, there is only rule that matters in Eleanor's court: trust no one.
Some of the Goodreads reviews for this book have not been kind, and I was especially amused by this chart (NSFW), which is a bit complicated but accurately sums up the relationships in this book. The main male characters in this novel are:
- Prince Leopold: who is having an affair with Isabelle of Valois - to whom he was formerly engaged - who is CURRENTLY engaged to Princess Marie-Victoria, and who is flirting with Aelwyn.
- He is the brother of Prince Wolfgang, known as "Wolf," who has been platonic friends with Marie-Victoria her whole life, and who met American girl Ronan Astor on the ship back to England. He and Ronan definitely have an attraction, and he asks her to marry him before she knows who he is; she declines.
- Gill, a palace guard whom Marie-Victoria loves.
- Louis, third or fourth cousin to Isabelle, who likes Celestine.
- Lord Hugh, who is also Isabelle's cousin and her guardian; he has been molesting her since she was young, when her parents died.
I overall did enjoy this book. The ending was a little surprising to me, because not everyone ended up with whom I thought they would, but it's still an ending I can live with. This is also going to be a series, according to the official website, so I'll be interested in seeing if the second book in the series follows new characters in England's court or these same characters.
Just based off of first glance, this book also seems similar to the TV show Reign, though I'll admit I haven't actually watched it yet - I'm hoping to watch it from the beginning starting this summer.
4 stars out of 5.
*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.