When the Emperor dies, the five royal houses of Etrusia attend the Call, where one of their own will be selected to compete for the throne. It is always the oldest child, the one who has been preparing for years to compete in the Trial. But this year is different. This year these five outcasts will answer the call. . . .
THE LIAR: Emilia must hide her dark magic or be put to death.
THE SOLDIER: Lucian is a warrior who has sworn to never lift a sword again.
THE SERVANT: Vespir is a dragon trainer whose skills alone will keep her in the game.
THE THIEF: Ajax knows that nothing is free–he must take what he wants.
THE MURDERER: Hyperia was born to rule and will stop at nothing to take her throne.
Dragons are awesome and majestic, and this book is so full of them that it can only be fun. My only expectation going into this new world was that it should entertain me and I should enjoy my reading experience, and it totally delivered on what I wanted.
This was a very plot driven narrative, and it felt different after a long time because I tend to gravitate so much towards character driven stories. The author just throws us right in the middle of chaos and we get to follow along wherever it goes. There are five POVs but after the initial introductions, I didn’t find it hard to tell them apart and I think that was cool. I will not say that this book is reinventing the wheel, because the concept of a Trial (or multiple) to win a throne in pretty common in YA fantasy. So while it was tad bit predictable, it was also fun to follow the contests, guess who might be the winners, predict their motives and just be thoroughly entertained. The world building is certainly limited because we are very much concentrated on the trials, but we do get to know a bit of history in between and I found that sufficient for now.
But the best part of this book were the dragons. Many books promise these majestic beasts these days in their titles but they are usually missing from action within the story itself, but I’m so happy that’s not the case here. All the dragons are very much a part of the narrative, have very distinct personalities and their own kind of relationships with their counterpart humans. I loved seeing how they seemed to complement each other so well, and all their bonding moments were absolutely spectacular. There’s a little one called Dog who is the most adorable ever and I don’t think I’ll be forgetting him anytime soon.
And coming to the main characters, I liked that we had a spectrum of them ranging from ruthless to power hungry to desperate to resourceful to tortured… all very distinct, who weren’t even sure if they wanted to rule the kingdom but slowly came to realize what was important to them. I also liked how they each came from very different backgrounds and life experiences, which defines the kind of person they are and also gives us a glimpse of what kind of a ruler they might be. They are all competitors but it was also nice to see them reluctantly bond or work together sometimes. I don’t know if I can yet pick whom I like decisively because I really loved certain qualities in every single one of them, except one person whom I wouldn’t wanna spoil. Romance is also not much of an important part of this story and there’s only one relationship, which we only get glimpses of. But I was glad to see it was two women in love and there was no homophobia involved.
The adults in the book are nothing much to be spoken about because like many of the YA novels we know, they were on a scale of useless to abhorrent, with maybe one being redeemable. The antagonists might seem predictable to some readers, but I certainly didn’t see the betrayals coming.
In the end, I just wanna say I enjoyed this book a lot. While I found it good all throughout and didn’t wanna put it down, I thought the last 10-15% was amazing and I truly did not expect that ending. That was spectacular and I’m already so excited for the conclusion, which I suppose won’t be coming out for another year. All I want to say is that if you love dragons a lot and want to enjoy reading some nice YA fantasy, then this might be just the right choice. If you are looking for something very unique or new that has never been done before, then this is not it. I have seen the comparisons to Game of Thrones in other reviews and they maybe right… but I was never a fan of those books and I certainly like this version because it’s more to my taste.