By Becky Wallace
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Published: March 3rd, 2015
Drama and danger abound in this fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected.
In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.
The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.
With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.
So, this is an interesting book, in the sense that I went into it expecting it to be highly predictable and I finished it dying to get my hands on the sequel. The book starts with the murder of Johanna’s father, an acrobat and a member of the Perfomers’ Camp, a guild of sorts for those who are part of the carnival-type community of the country of Santarem. This is in addition to the murders of girls that look eerily similar to Johanna. The book goes on to introduce us to many different points of view, from the Keepers who hope to find Johanna and restore a balance of power to Santarem, to a young lordling Rafael.
Once I had learned the history of Santarem and the events leading up to the present story, I figured out Johanna’s role in what some might see as a predictable and overused storyline. However, I never had the feeling that that part of the storyline was suppose to be a big reveal, and I appreciated that. It was a part of the plot that, instead of being the climax of the story that the reader could see from a mile away, was woven into the plot and spurred it along, leaving the characters and the world building to carry the book.
I normally dislike or have a hard time getting into books that are told from so many different points of view. This book was an exception. The writing was entirely in third person, but the fact that it was omniscient on top of this let the reader get inside the characters heads without the distraction of a completely new voice each time. Or worse, a situation where there is no differentiation between the characters. Both of these potential potholes were avoided and the characters were highly individualized with their own desires, motives, and morality.
Johanna has the priority of protecting her family and making sure they are cared for, her loyalty and love for these people was felt through all of her actions, and her ability to not take any shit from anyone and not feel intimidated by people who held more power than she did was something I loved. She was no shrinking violet and was incredibly stubborn and her character was all around highly entertaining. In the case of Rafael, who was equally stubborn, he was a great match for Johanna in that their fiery personalities and dedication to their individual priorities seemed to mirror the other’s and in the end, their loyalty to each other and their roles in society made them quite an endearing couple.
The Keepers, Jacáre, Pira, Leão, and Tex, were an interesting addition to the cast. All of them were distinct and were an interesting mix, with half the group being very young and inexperienced and the other half being incomprehensibly old and having seen things the others had only heard about in stories. My favorite was Pira, with her prickliness and confused feelings for the helplessly naive Leão. I also enjoyed how the keepers were human and fallible, their magic was not endless, all powerful, nor could it completely protect them. They had weaknesses that even the strongest of them fell victim to.
The setting was equally captivating, with scenery that was wonderfully described and brought to life without overshadowing the plot. There was also a wonderful underlying thread of Spanish culture that influenced the names and food in the dukedom of Santiago, where most of the story takes place. The book also doesn’t shy away from killing its characters, which is something that is painful to read but also easy to respect. These characters had names, faces, and known and well established ties to the main characters. I am interested in seeing how such a decimated cast is dealt with and added to in the next installment.
I greatly enjoyed how a book that could have easily fallen into the predictable not only didn’t, but fully accepted and incorporated that predictability into the plot. The cast of characters was excellent, with interesting, intimidating, and vile foes, like Dukes Inimigo and Belem, and eloquent and affable heros and heroines, like Johanna, Rafael, and his mother Lady De Silva. So grab the book, sit back, and prepare to enjoy yourself. At least until the book is finished, when you’ll be wishing for the sequel.
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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.