Published by Tor Teen
Published on 5 November 2019
Genres: Fantasy & Magic
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The night my sister was born, the stars died and were reborn in her eyes....
Zuhra and Inara have grown up in the Citadel of the Paladins, an abandoned fortress where legendary, magical warriors once lived before disappearing from the world--including their Paladin father the night Inara was born.
On that same night, a massive, magical hedge grew and imprisoned them within the citadel. Inara inherited their father's Paladin power; her eyes glow blue and she is able to make plants grow at unbelievable rates, but she has been trapped in her own mind because of a "roar" that drowns everything else out--leaving Zuhra virtually alone with their emotionally broken human mother.
For fifteen years they have lived, trapped in the citadel, with little contact from the outside world...until the day a stranger passes through the hedge, and everything changes.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
To be completely honest with you (and that’s the only way to be when writing a book review), I requested this book for review from Netgalley because I mistook the author for someone else: someone whose books I had previously enjoyed and whose other books were on my to-read list.
I was so wrong. I’ve never read a Sara B Larson book before this one.
Apart from the case of mistaken identity, I was drawn to the use of the word Paladin because I’m an old-school WarCraft player (not World of, we’re talking Tides of Darkness and Reign of Chaos and boy am I looking forward to Reforged coming in 2020!) and Larson’s paladins share quite a few features with the familiar Warcraft ones: an outright obsession with the colour blue, healing powers, riding gryphons (although in WC3 it was dwarves who rode gryphons, but the similarities are there). It was at once comforting and strangely familiar to read this book, when it seemed like an alternative universe fanfic of the WarCraft paladins.
However, this book took forever for me to read. The first half was interesting: all the set up and worldbuilding was engaging, and I really loved seeing the genuine sisterly connection between Zhura and Innara, two girls trapped in a castle with their strict mother, and a servant (because god knows we can’t have teenage girls doing monotonous chores).
Then something interesting happened and a new POV was introduced at about 40% through, and from then on, I really struggled to finish the book. I didn’t find it engaging, and even though there was plenty of conflict, I found the romances all way too obvious and uninteresting and really quite shallow, and the magic of the sisters together was gone as they were now separated. The world building from that point on kind of lagged along with the plot, and I found myself bored and unengaged, putting down my Kindle to look at social media instead.
I didn’t mind the instalove, because Zhura was raised by an obviously psychotic, villainous mother (who starved her own daughter) to prepare for a husband, even though they were trapped behind a magical hedge, cut off from the rest of civilisation. Of course Zhura was going to instantly love whichever man would be the first she set eyes on. It made sense so me, and I wasn’t mad about it. But I didn’t like the second guy she fell for either, because he was the only one in a new group of people who got a detailed description, and from then on it was all about the way he looked with some attempt at magical bonding to explain these feelings, and I really couldn’t tell why either of the characters were interested in the other, or even if they were since they were both in such denial about it.
I was also approaching this book as a stand-alone, and I found that although I really enjoyed the first half, the second half wasn’t engaging enough for me to want to find out what happens next in the sequel.