sky turned red and bathed the heavens in the ghastly color of blood, on the same night the Kingdom of Cokyri abruptly ceased its merciless attack. Across the land of Hytanica, under the shadow of the crimson moon, infant boys continued to vanish. Not until the blood had faded from the sky did the disappearances stop and the bodies of the murdered infants were found outside the gates of the city, a final word from the greatest enemy Hytanica had ever known. For the next sixteen years, peace reigned, but one mystery remained unsolved. The Cokyrians had abducted forty-nine newborns, but returned only forty-eight bodies. Now, as seventeen-year-old Princess Alera of Hytanica is besieged from all sides by suitors vying for the Throne, a teenage Cokyrian boy, Narian, is encountered within the walls of her Kingdom, a boy who will show Alera a world where women serve a purpose and not just a husband. As Narian helps Alera find her voice, she struggles against an arranged marriage that will shatter the life she has scarcely begun to live. And when Narian's shocking past is uncovered, and war with Cokyri looms once more, he must fight to defy a fate ordained at his birth.
In this book we meet princess Alera, the heiress to the kingdom of Hytanica but she will need to marry (at 18) because the laws will not allow a woman to rule. For that reason, her father has chosen the best suitable fiancé and his intentions are a suggestion if she can find a better prospect, otherwise that young man will be it. Alera is a dedicated girl to her kingdom's peace but she can't help it but be caught in the intrigues of the palace when Narian, a boy raised in the enemy kingdom of Cokyri, challenges some of the things eh has taken for granted. However, some of those things might not be what they seem and will Alera be able to have some notion of t«what is real before disaster strikes or, even worse, she needs to marry on her fast approaching 18th birthday?
I'm writing this and thinking to myself I sound like a teenager again and then, from where I am, I can actually see the book in the shelf and I really must say that had this not been a gift, I would never have looked at this book nor would I feel the will to try it. While reading I kept enumerating details in my head why I felt this story was weak but now I don't feel like really remembering it all so let me just say that it simply didn't work out for me. There are some great reviews out there on why this didn't work and I've discovered that it can be incredibly satisfying to read reviews that match my own opinion but which are so well written, as opposed to mine.
To summarize a few major issues I had, I'll start with the fact this was written by a teenager and it shows. The plot is incredible plain and unconvincing and the characters not developed. I think it is obvious the author had an idea, a goal, clear influences from other stories she had read but although the general idea wasn't too bad ( although it lacks originality, one should commend imagination in the details), I don't think she had a general grasp of how to go from one point to another. It's not that the action is impossible, only uninteresting and lacking substance.
Apparently, this is supposed to be a story about enemy kingdoms, which have different ways of being rules, etc, and I imagined the idea would be to expose that, or to center this somehow in the development of the role of women, since in the enemy Cokyri kingdom women have more voice. I could even see where the author might have wanted to go with her secrets and hints but I don't think she conveyed enough complexity to the plot nor strong layers to give strength to her characters.
I'd say one big problem is the fact this is told in first person, by Alera, and that limits the way we are able to understand things. Now, some of you might say I'm being biased because I don't tend to like first person narration that much but in this case, even though I understand this was probably easier for the author to do, the first person also makes us spend all our time with Alera and, more than anything else, the issue here is that Alera simply isn't a fascinating character! In fact, she is spoiled, silly, immature and doesn't demonstrate any abilities which could convince me she would be a good queen, nor is she likable enough so that her journey to learn how to become who she needs to be would feel like one I wanted to follow.
Alera is curious and naive and she lives a life I assume any royal-like teenager would in a fantasy world like this one, but there's nothing about her that makes her a lagers than life heroine or a person we would want to root for or that way would like to see change into a better whatever she had to be. I was often annoyed at her actions, at her lack of understanding of what was going on and she didn't convince me of her cleverness. When the book ends - in a sort of cliffhanger - I could see how the author wanted to set up things for the next installment but since I will not be reading it, I don't know how much growth she will actually show.
I won't read any more books by the author, but who knows, maybe one day in a few years she will jump into another genre and her work can gain from her growing up and maturity...