When her little sister is sold to faerie slave traders, Brie sets out to find her in the Unseelie court. In order to save her sister, she makes a deal with the evil king Mordeus to steal three magical artifacts from the Seelie court and must infiltrate the court by posing as a potential bride for the faerie prince. Torn between three opposing people, Brie must decide whom to trust and, most importantly, trust herself.
This is a really fun fantasy that mixes themes from A Court of Thorns and Roses and The Selection. Ryan is a romance novelist and this is her first foray into YA and I think she did a great job. The romance is definitely at the center of this novel, but it does not fall short on action, suspense, or clever twists.
I really loved the world building in this novel. In the non-faerie world, people who are desperate for money can end up in life contracts, enslaved to other humans or to the faeries. Brie and her sister Jasalyn exist in this world, and are saddled with crippling debt to an abusive woman who uses them as labor. Their mother ran off years ago and the two sisters only have each other. I really enjoyed their relationship, even though they are separated for most of the novel. I love seeing a strong sister bond and definitely related to Brie’s willingness to do anything to get her sister back.
The faerie world is equally compelling. There’s the shadowy court of Unseelie which is said to house the bad faeries, and the golden court of Seelie which is said to house the good faeries. The Seelie court is glittering and over-the-top while the Unseeliecourt is dark and creeping, which makes for fun shifts in the setting. I did think there was very little discussion of the actual magic of the faeries beyond small glamours, and I would have loved to see that more fully fleshed out.
At the center of the story is a love triangle between Brie, Finn, and Sebastian. Sebastian is the Seelie prince who is looking for a bride and finds himself drawn to Brie. Finn is an Unseelie rebel who is fighting to take the crown from his Uncle King Mordeus. I thought both sides of the love triangle were well-developed and engaging and it’s fun to go back and forth on who she should be with.
CW: drugs, kidnapping, manipulation