Attempted Assassinations, Sex (off-screen), Language, Fighting
Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Day Leitao and Sparkly Wave for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication.
It was such a pleasure to read this novel, and this happened to be my first novel from Day Leitao. I found the premise to be interesting, and the storyline was easy to follow.
We mostly follow the main character Zora, who has lived a tough life. She lives in the Dark Valley, where shadow demons are known to appear wherever there is a shadow in this place. To reduce the amount of shadow demons that attack the village, lights are on 24/7, and measures are taken to eliminate as many shadow crevices as possible. Mattresses are completely on the floor – no shadows under the bed… – Shoes fold into itself – no shadows in their shoes… – just imagine it. Imagine having to try to sleep with the lights on constantly as well. Rumor has it that the people of the Dark Valley disobeyed against the gods of old, and this was their punishment. Others don’t believe so, but the truth has been hidden for so long that nobody knows what really happened. Either way, the Dark Valley has since been forgotten by the kingdom and its rulers until now. This year, the kingdom actually allows the Dark Valley to choose their champion for the honor to compete for the Blood Cup. While the Dark Valley was going to send someone else – this someone being a super egotistical and womanizer guy that used Zora for sexual favors – Zora takes her own revenge by going in his place. Hey, it’s not her fault that this dude never learned how to write or read. And it’s not her fault he never put his name under the line for “Contestant”. It might as well be her, which is what she did.
That was just the beginning…
I enjoy medieval settings whenever I get a chance to read them, because it makes me think back to the days of me being super active as a child, and I wonder if I could have grown up to be a warrior. Maybe, if I was practicing with wooden swords and bows and arrows, right? Anyway… the kingdom felt like a typical kingdom setting, which isn’t necessarily good or bad. It was clear that there was classism going on, which I expected, and Zora was one of those that didn’t agree to those boxes that people had to be put in. I get it, I’m the same way. Due to her role of being a competitor, Zora gets to see how the other half live, those that are actually treated with respect and aren’t pushed around because of where they are from. It’s a little disorientating for her, but she learns to adapt. One of the good things about her is that she’s always alert to the potential dangers around her. She’s allowed to carry her sword everywhere she goes, so in case someone tries a sneak attack, she’s armed and ready to defend herself.
While the competition is high in her mind, she also has to deal with the three princes of this kingdom… well two princes and one king, since the prior king and queen tragically died. And for some reason, she’s a target for all three of them, but for very different reasons. I can’t imagine having to play at these political games that she gets herself into, and unwillingly as well. She has one prince that wants her to forfeit the competition so “she doesn’t get hurt”, another prince that has his own selfish reasons and games for using Zora, and the king who is not as he seems. It’s confusing for her, and so not needed while she’s trying to just stay alive in the place.
Did I mention that there’s someone trying to kill her?
Another POV that we get to experience is Griffin, one of the princes of this kingdom. He’s also a competitor for the Blood Cup, and he’s the one that wants Zora to forfeit. The more that you hear from Griffin, the more that you come to realize that there’s something different about him. Is it truly as terrible as he thinks? I honestly can’t tell. But he’s definitely beating himself up over it. By the time this book ends though… I don’t know how that is going to come to play in the second novel, and whether things are about to get much worse because of it.
I was okay with Griffin’s narration, but I found Zora to be a more compelling character to follow. It could be because I don’t agree with some of Griffin’s actions, but I also understand that some of it is not intended… minor spoiler so I won’t say more.
The writing was good, the storyline was good, the character developments were pretty good. I didn’t find anything too terrible with this novel that could be a huge issue, so I’m okay with recommending it!