4.5 stars - Surprisingly, this might be one of my fave reads of the year. Surprisingly because I had some issues, but in the end, I really enjoyed it. For fantasy fans, it can be a fun ride.
Do you like fantasy? If so, that’s good, because I think that might be necessary. This is based in a magical world with wizards, the fey, trolls, and other magical beings. There is little-to-no-explanation or exposition about the world and all the magical beings, so you have to either go in with some idea of fairies and incubi, or just take a relaxed “go with the flow” feeling.
What this reminded me of? Argent’s style, especially with its crowds of characters, reminded me a lot of Diana Wynne Jones' books. Jones, who wrote a truckload of awesome YA fantasy books, also would often toss you into the deep end of the pool with little explanation, and you just had to swim through her imagination and magical worlds.
Argent’s style, especially MC Sebastian, who is quick with an insult, grouchy (yet secretly kind) and loves books, reminded me also of Megan Derr’s works, and other fantasy works from Less Than Three. If you like fantasy, and stories like Derr’s Dance in the Dark or Isabella Carter’s Dragon Slayer, this may also work well for you too. (I’m personally a big fan of both those books.)
What was harder for me? This book is CROWDED. Sebastian has, like, nine siblings? Plus his parents, the kids of some siblings, the partners of other siblings, his romantic interest, the prince (who is gloriously persistent against Sebastian’s grouchiness), the prince’s parents, the castle guards, some villains, LOTS of people. It took a while to sort through, and because there are a lot, I didn’t always feel connected, and at times, they just felt like listed names. I sound like one of the heartless villains, but if I could have removed 3-4 of Sebastian’s siblings, I would have been happier, although his family would not since even when they’re devising poisons for each other, they really do love each other.
The amount of characters and how there was not a lot of explanation were probably the hardest parts for me. I was more frustrated in the beginning, but then I got into the “go with the flow” vibe, and like Sebastian in the story, I warmed to this frenetic world and its devious (but loving) characters, especially Sebastian, who feels like he can never let down his shields, but then he meets his match with the tireless Turren. (I have such a soft spot for those who can wear down grouches!)
When I knew I really dug this book? I have two commute choices—the twenty minute express bus that is usually too crowded to sit or the 40 minute slower bus that leaves at erratic times but you can always get a seat. (Great for reading!) And I found myself making sure I could take the slow bus so I can spend 40 more minutes reading about what will happen to Sebastian next. After wading in, I was HOOKED, and really enjoying the story, the emerging romance, and even the crowded dinner table at Sebastian’s house. (It’s also nicely long! At over 300 pages or 100,000 words, so I was able to enjoy a few commutes with this one!)
If you’re a big fantasy fan, you may also really dig this. Heads-up that it can be confusing, and there are a lot of people running around, but within it, there’s a sweet romance about a young magical man, and his tenacious, ever hopeful prince.
Would I read more? Well, my jury is out. Sebastian was definitely my fave character, so I would be up for reading more with him, but I didn't feel much for other potential romantic leads.
I think Argent did a fun job and is an author I want to keep tabs on. You may also dig this one too.