Betrothed from a young age, Adraa and Jatin are destined to unite two of Wickery’s most powerful territories. The problem? They hate each other. After not seeing each other for a decade, a chance encounter leads them to hide their identities while embarking on a daring mission through the seedy underbelly of Adraa’s kingdom. If they want to stay alive, they need to learn to trust each other.
I really think the most important place to start with this book is the setting. This is a South Asian-inspired fantasy, written by a white woman. There’s a great discussion on Goodreads around this topic and I think it is really important, as readers, to consider who gets to tell stories and why. I have to question why a white woman is able to get her story published when there are many South Asian authors with great ideas that are not picked up for publication. I think it is a real flaw in the industry, and one that I hope will change moving forward. Likewise, I feel the publisher made a huge error in promoting this book. They chose to compare this novel to the works of Sabaa Tahir, Hafsah Faizal, and Renée Ahdieh- all women of color writing characters of color. This book is not for their fans and comparing their works to this felt incredibly tone deaf. All that said, the author does say in a note on Goodreads why she wrote the story this way. I’d encourage you to read it and decide for yourself how you feel!
If you choose to read this book, here are my thoughts outside that major question:
I felt the book was fine. Adraa is a great character, super strong, a fierce fighter, a loyal friend, and a woman devoted to her family and people. Jatin is slightly less likable for me. He’s somewhat arrogant and doesn’t want the responsibility of caring for his kingdom. They do, however, make a good team, even if they are hiding their identities from each other for most of the novel.
I thought the world-building was incredibly strong. The system of magic is compelling and unique: individuals with the Touch can cast up to nine colors of magic, each representing a different skill. The Untouched have no magic, and this separation provides the basis for the plot. It moves at a fast pace and has a good amount of action and romance to keep you turning the page.
The writing, in my opinion, wasn’t great. I found the chapter titles to be very annoying; they were structured almost like the names of Friends episodes. But, I am obviously an adult and not the target audience for this book. Young teens might find that cute. Beyond that, I felt everything was surface-level and the plot never developed. This book was not my cup of tea, but may appeal to readers who love romantic fantasies more than action.
Have you read this one? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!