Tessa gifted me the hardback for this for my birthday (yes, yes, that was a few months back) and I finally got my sh#t together to read it, by buddy-reading it with Nikki. It was fun to be able to discuss it together and made the experience all the more enjoyable.
Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.
Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.
Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.
First off, I gotta gush about the cover for a minute. I mean, it is absolutely stunning, and the hardcover is a neat cream colour under the dust jacket, with the spine in foil. It’s also one of the rare cases where an author wins the cover lottery and both the US and UK covers are gorgeous as hell.
On to the story: I was not entirely convinced at first because Shiori was a very spoiled and childish 16 year old, which made me wonder if I could get to like her, and it can be hard in a 1st person novel if you don’t vibe with the character. She really grew on me as things happened to her and she had some excellent character growth. I found myself rooting for her very, very quickly.
The novel picks up the pace pretty quickly and after that, you just don’t want to put it down! It goes from plot twist to plot twist but at the same time you do get the sense of time passing. I was actually quite surprised when she’d say a month had passed, or just a few weeks, as it gave the impression that a lot more time went past, while still being so fast-paced.
I didn’t know the fairy tale it’s inspired by (I went and read it after I finished) so it was all a surprise for me, but I like how Lim subverts the usual tropes of fairy tales, and the changes she made to this one in particular. The female characters were all interesting and complex, and I loved the fact that while there were a lot of supporting male characters, ultimately Shiori and Raikama are the main protagonists here and lead the story at every step.