My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Author: Rebecca Ross
Reading Format: E-book
Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic
When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.
Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.
Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.
With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?
The first time I attempted to read this book, I had borrowed a physical copy from the library. I thought it was too slow for me. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood to read it? I can’t quite pinpoint what didn’t interest me about this book.
Fast forward to present day, I borrowed this book on Overdrive as an e-book. I started it earlier in the day when my daughter napped because I remembered how slow the beginning was. I recognized pages I’ve already read and it enticed me back into the world. This time I was interested, very interested. And what really drew me in as I immersed myself in this world was the oh so beautiful writing!
Brienna is half Maevana and half Valenian. She lives in the kingdom of Valenia and is sent to Magnalia House at ten years old, a place where girls learn certain subjects and excel in them. Later on these girls “passion” (think of it as graduating and earning a degree) and find a patron to contract themselves too. The passions are: Wit, Drama, Knowledge, Music and Art.
I loved reading about Brienna’s interaction with her fellow ardens or sisters, as she calls them. Yes to sisterhood! She has trouble picking a passion but eventually settles with Knowledge. Her relationship with her Master (her instructor), is verging on being taboo so though it doesn’t go further than tension filled glances, and one touch on the hand in the beginning, I think it stays pretty mild. Now romance is not the main theme in this book, which I actually appreciated a lot. There was enough intrigue and plotting going on that romance wasn’t needed. It does come back later in the story though when Brienna isn’t a student anymore and her Master is someone she didn’t expect him to be.
Although the beginning is slow, I believe it’s due to the world building being outstanding. I was transported to Valenia while reading the author’s very lyrical writing. I’m glad it went slowly because I had a chance to savor the words. I felt like I was Brienna and when a plot to overthrow the ruler of the neighboring country Maevana takes place, I got very nervous things would not work out. I could not put the book down, even though I had to! I started at noon, took a break here and there because of my kids, then once they fell asleep at night I picked it up again and thankfully didn’t have to read past midnight. By then I managed to finish the book before midnight. Yippee!
There is a lot happening within the story after Brienna finds a patron. She is involved in a scheme to overthrow the ruthless ruler of Maevana. Brienna also harbors memories of her dead Maevana ancestor – which means she is the only person who can find two objects that the rebels need to secure the loyalty of the people to help fight in the rebellion. I was so glad Brienna got to learn about her Maevana side. I mean a kingdom that used to only be ruled by Queens with magic? Yes please!
I’m so glad I decided to read this book again! Brienna started off as just a girl with so many missing parts: no mom, didn’t know her dad, her grandpa sent her away to school. She wasn’t the strongest in her passion, she was always conflicted. But Brienna managed to balance her conflicted thoughts and emotions to her strength and found a way to help her Maevana friends and newfound family. I actually felt this could have been a stand alone book but I know the second book, The Queen’s Resistance, has just been published. I look forward to reading part two in Brienna’s journey and read more of Rebecca Ross’s gorgeous writing! 😍