Synopsis: Every Fairy-Tale Ending Has a Price. . .
Orphaned as a child in the crumbling village of Tulan, Elara is determined to learn her true identity, even if it means wielding a dagger. Meanwhile, in Galandria’s royal capital, Princess Wilha stands out as someone to either worship or fear. Though no one knows why the king has always made her conceal her face—including Wilha herself.
When an assassination attempt threatens the peace of neighbouring kingdoms, Elara and Wilha are brought face to face . . . with a chance at claiming new identities. However, with dark revelations now surfacing, both girls will need to decide if brighter futures are worth the binding risks.
Elara is abused by her caretakers. The princess’ nurse ‘disappeared’ after she saw her unmasked. There’s an attempt to assassinate the royal family- arrows are shot, the king is injured. A character is knocked out and imprisoned. Wilha is attacked (with implied intention of sexual assault) but she is defended by her sister, who stabs the attacker.
Talk of execution, torture and paintings of different ways to die. Stories of past wars and rumours of a new one. A plot to burn the city is unearthed.
Men make insinuations in the tavern. A character promises to marry someone, only to fall in love with a different girl. The princess is betrothed and she kisses her betrothed on occasion. A maid and waitress embrace.
Wilha and Patrick hold hands and almost kiss. Wilha does kiss James, however. Someone tries to take advantage of her (see above).
Parts of the book takes place in a tavern, which includes ale and drunks. Mr Olsen was a drunkard, and characters drink wine throughout the book.
Elara is abused and finally stands up for herself. Her ‘step-mom’ teaches her to manipulate people.
Although they speak of a prophecy (or curse), it is clarified that it wasn’t one- it was just the right words said at the right time, leading people to believe the event will happen.
Overall feel: A novel that delves into a (much-needed?) revolution, the complex bond that binds sisters, and the art of manipulation. One sister grew up with harsh authority and difficult times, becoming an untrusting, manipulative girl- the other grew up in a posh palace, rejected, and became a lonely, insecure girl. With a little bit of romance, complex political intrigue, and two countries on the brink of war, the novel has the potential to entertain.
Recommended: If you enjoyed this novel, check out Shannon Hale’s books The Princess Academy (specifically the third one) for more sibling-throne troubles. See Jodi Meadow’s The Orphan Queen for another revolution. If you enjoyed ordinary-girls-turned-princesses, see K.M. Shea’s Sleeping Beauty and Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Palace of Mirrors.