Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Published on 28 December 2021
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Source: my local library
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The Wicked Deep meets House of Salt and Sorrows in this new standalone YA fantasy set in a snow-cloaked kingdom where witches are burned, and two enchantresses secretly compete for the heart of a prince, only to discover that they might be falling for each other.
It's Karnawał season in the snow-cloaked Kingdom of Lechija, and from now until midnight when the church bells ring an end to Devil's Tuesday time will be marked with wintry balls and glittery disguises, cavalcades of nightly torch-lit "kuligi" sleigh-parties.
Unbeknownst to the oblivious merrymakers, two monsters join the fun, descending upon the royal city of Warszów in the guise of two innocent girls. Newfound friends and polar opposites, Zosia and Marynka seem destined to have a friendship that's stronger even than magic. But that's put to the test when they realize they both have their sights set on Lechija's pure-hearted prince. A pure heart contains immeasurable power and Marynka plans to bring the prince's back to her grandmother in order to prove herself. While Zosia is determined to take his heart and its power for her own.
When neither will sacrifice their ambitions for the other, the festivities spiral into a wild contest with both girls vying to keep the hapless prince out of the other's wicked grasp. But this isn't some remote forest village, where a hint of stray magic might go unnoticed, Warszów is the icy capital of a kingdom that enjoys watching monsters burn, and if Zosia and Marynka's innocent disguises continue to slip, their escalating rivalry might cost them not just the love they might have for each other, but both their lives.
I am so happy I got to finish 2021 with an amazing read. I was truly impressed with this book and I enjoyed every minute of it. I listened to it on audio and I was enjoying it so much that I went and bought a hard copy before I even finished the book, and I’ve literally never done that, but I feel like it’s one I will want to read myself again and again.
The writing is just gorgeous. You’d think a book set in the middle of a snowy winter would run out of ways to describe snow or the cold, but nope. The writing was poetic and lyrical, it flowed beautifully, and it demonstrated that Jasinska is truly a master of her craft. I am not OK that more people are not screaming about this talent.
Part of the talent of fantasy writing is how well an author builds a made-up world. I was so enthralled with this book and its subtle worldbuilding, and utterly entranced by the cultures and traditions of the kingdoms we spent time in. I loved how casually magic was dropped in, like of course some people have magical gifts, you don’t need me to tell you where they come from, or of course people in this book are of diverse sexuality and everyone’s OK with that (which I love!). On the flip side, we got quite an extensive backstory for both the main characters, but it was fed in bits and pieces until the right time to reveal, which worked beautifully across the whole novel.
I also thought the characters were presented with clear goals and motivations, which made it easy to understand and like them. Not every character was likeable, which is fair because I believe this is billed as a ‘villain romance’ and not everyone is into villains, casual cruelty and murder, or unrepentant morality. But I definitely respected what the story was doing by using these characters as clear tools to tell the story. I really liked spending time with them, even if I wasn’t the biggest fan of Marynka (I just don’t think we’d get along!).
I also found the plot super interesting and original, and I loved so much the enemies/lovers rivalry and their focus on a prince, without anything romantic happening with said prince. And if you’ve been around this blog for a while, you’ll know I love princes and a bit of romance so I really liked how this romance progressed the whole time with two characters who by all means put themselves first and shouldn’t be able to feel that kind of love for someone else. I actually really liked the way Jasinska approached this, because it was a really slow burn with the characters almost hating themselves for their own feelings, which I admit I haven’t read many books like that before. This is because I am not generally into enemies/lovers stories, I tend to like characters who are respectful and kind to one another – however I found Marynka and Zosia’s attitudes towards each other really kind of cool and nice in a way, it’s kind of hard for me to describe. They are definitely enemies but they can’t help those small acts of kindness, and if anyone is going t murder the other it’s going to be one of them.
Also i was really pleased to see the spurned lover trope was never a thing, I was kind of dreading it might happen. But whatever I was expecting, Jasinska did something different, so I appreciate that kind of imagination that can keep me guessing until the very end.
Overall this was a phenomenal book, I loved it to bits, and I really need to read Jasinska’s first one, The Dark Tide.