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    Political intrigue, magic and romance!

    My thanks to NetGalley, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group, and Crystal Smith for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are 100% my own and independent of receiving an advance copy. Prepare to enter a beautiful, harsh world where magic is forbidden and to practice the ancient ways means certain death. Princess Aurelia can feel the magic coursing through her veins and to survive a coup for her throne she must escape to the neighbouring city of Achleva and pose as a commoner until she can figure out who is friend or foe. Led by a Harbinger, a terrifying ghost, who leads her along with clues, Aurelia tries to understand and use her magic to help unlock the secrets of both cities. Along the way she falls in love with a man forbidden to her, as she is already promised to someone else. She must put her family and the crown ahead of all her desires. Loosely based on the fairy tale “The Goose Girl”, Crystal Smith’s debut novel is a rich story that will satisfy any fantasy reader. This world is truly incredible. You have the blend of feudal law, which exacts a strict and often violent penalty for any infraction. You have the political machinations of different factions trying to gain power. There is the royalty structure which has kings and queens and princesses who are promised in marriage to a prince that they don’t even know. The paranormal elements of the ghosts who know too much and want to communicate with the living. Lastly you have the magic, “blood” magic that extracts a cost to those who draw on its power. Smith does an amazing job of combining all of these elements together to create this fantastical world. Inside of this world are colourful characters that come to life. The best treat is a strong female lead who must fend for herself while she is still discovering who she is. To sweep you off your feet is a love story that is like the cherry on top. Gives you all sorts of good feels. I found that this was a strong addition to what is getting to be a crowded field. I really found myself carried away with the story and had a huge smile at the end. Yup, colour me sucker for a great ending. Can’t wait for the next one in the series!
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