A famine is plaguing Portugal and Princess Yzabel is wasting food simply by trying to eat. Her magic, or her curse, turns every meal into flowers. To reverse the magic and save her people, she needs the help of an enchanted woman trapped by magical binds.
This book was a total miss for me, and I question whether that is fully because of the book itself or if I was let down by the way it was pitched. It’s described as an epic historical fantasy, but it is very light on the fantasy. I would describe it more as historical fiction with a small dose of mysticism. There really is no magic system, no explanation of how magical powers work, and no world building. It’s firmly rooted in a Portuguese legend and therefore has a stronger religious and historical influence than fantasy. The book is deeply religious, which I tend to steer clear of in my reading. Again, the religious element is not included in the publisher’s summary, despite the major role it plays in the storyline.
In addition to the strange choice in description, I just did not connect with the characters. Yzabel is described only as “saintly” and has no other defining characteristics. She’s deeply religious and turns to self-flagellation as she grapples with her curse and her sexual identity. Her future husband, Denis, is described as kind, but he is consistently arrogant and demeaning. He refuses to try to understand Yzabel and is quick to anger. Fatyan, the Enchanted Moura and Yzabel’s love interest, is given no characteristics beyond a very shaky backstory. I want to love their romance (yay f/f fantasy romance!), but it was so rushed and underdeveloped. If I’m being honest, the only character I totally loved was the dog.
There were also issues with plotting and pacing. The main plot of the book shifts about halfway through, which impacts the pacing. It’s slow to start, then picks up to a rushed conclusion.
What I did like about the book is that it is very sex positive and has strong female friendship and support. Although the book is very religious, it discusses masturbation and sex outside of marriage in a positive and encouraging way. Yzabel’s friends care about her and want to help, even at their own risk, and she discovers a larger community of women when she opens herself up to help. I love to see that in young adult fiction.
I recognize that this is a pretty harsh review, but again, I really think the biggest issue was that the book was misrepresented by its summary. If you love historical fiction and religion, this may be a winner for you, but it just did not resonate with me.
If you’ve read this one and enjoyed it, let me know why! I’d love to hear your thoughts.