In the Alskad Empire, nearly all are born with a twin, two halves to form one whole…yet some face the world alone.
A rare few are singleborn in each generation, and therefore given the right to rule by the gods and goddesses. Bo Trousillion is one of these few, born into the royal line and destined to rule. Though he has been chosen to succeed his great-aunt, Queen Runa, as the leader of the Alskad Empire, Bo has never felt equal to the grand future before him.
When one twin dies, the other usually follows, unable to face the world without their other half. Those who survive are considered diminished, doomed to succumb to the violent grief that inevitably destroys everyone whose twin has died. Such is the fate of Vi Abernathy, whose twin sister died in infancy. Raised by the anchorites of the temple after her family cast her off, Vi has spent her whole life scheming for a way to escape and live out what’s left of her life in peace.
As their sixteenth birthdays approach, Bo and Vi face very different futures—one a life of luxury as the heir to the throne, the other years of backbreaking work as a temple servant. But a long-held secret and the fate of the empire are destined to bring them together in a way they never could have imagined.
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genres: Young adult, fantasy, family, action, romance, adventure, mystery, diverse, political intrigue, science fiction, revenge.
Disclaimer: I received this ARC from the publisher to review. In no way has the publisher nor the author influenced or paid for my review, all opinions stated are my own.
I wish this book would’ve had a map. I find maps one of the most useful tools as a reader, especially when trying to place yourself in a fantasy world. The world inside the book is so vast and we visit so many places that I would’ve loved to have been able to visually see it as well as imagine it. I am also pretty biased because bookish maps are one of my favourite things about reading. But in this case I feel like it would’ve enriched my reading of this book.
I’m disappointed that we didn’t get more history of the world that Vi and Bo live in. It looks like our current reality set in the future after a nuclear war that split the moon in half. I would like to know if what I am assuming of this world is correct. I figured since Bo was interested in the Cataclysm that we would learn more about it in the book but unfortunately we didn’t. The past informs the future and I feel like it plays a much bigger role in the overarching story than it has in the first book.
The pacing of this book was kind of weird for me. Stuff was happening throughout the book but I felt like it took forever to get to the main storyline. It is about halfway through the book before we learned the most important information and actually started making some headway into the story. I think I was also annoyed because it was taking so long for Bo and Vi to meet. The separated storylines were just so starkly different it kind of got annoying flipping back and forth so often. It just felt like a super long book where not too much actually happened until right at the very end. Upon finishing the book I just felt like all that had happened could’ve happened in a much smaller book.
Vi was by far my favourite character in the book. She is smart, resourceful, not afraid to state her mind, caring, daring and protective. I understood almost all of the decisions she made while she was on her journey; the only one I couldn’t was her relationship with Quill. I must admit that I also don’t understand why when the sun ship was far enough from shore that it wouldn’t be visible that Vi didn’t just jump off the ship and swim back (she’s a strong swimmer so she could’ve made it) and just live off her pearls. Yes, the church would probably been after her but with the money from her pearls she could’ve bought anonymity. But her relationship with Quill and how she was willing to sell herself to the highest bidder was the thing I couldn’t understand most. I love who she became after she met Bo though; I felt like she became her best version of herself. I can’t wait to see her grow even more as her relationship with her twin grows too.
Bo wasn’t too bad of a character although he kind of annoyed me at times with how unknowledgeable of the world he really was. He was naïve, but too much so and seeing as he grew up with the snakes of the royal court he should’ve been much more prepared for that in the real world. Bo really at times reminds me of a puppy that just wants to please people. I liked how he expanded his horizons through meeting and travelling with Swindon. While it wasn’t a huge character change for Bo in this book, he slightly matured and I think he will grow by leaps and bounds in the next book. It really touched me at the end when he told Vi that he wanted her to rule with him. While I can’t say I appreciate him planning out Vi’s life for her it really warmed my heart to know that he saw her in his future at his side. That he wanted to share ruling the Alskad Kingdom with her.
Wow, Claes turned into quite the self serving jerk right fast. The twins were supposed to be the only people his age he trusted and they basically spit on it. It is quite telling how much his distrust of Claes goes after he broke that trust because he starts to confide in Claes only because he thinks he is about to die. And then to top it off Claes sells him out to the Suzerain! Now, I’m not 100% sure if he did sell him out or if he is trying to manipulate some kind of deal for either about or for himself. I say this because maybe he wanted to make a deal for his soul since he found religion when he was on his deathbed. But since Bo didn’t see him die I think he is going to be alive in the sequel and not on Bo’s side.
I’m surprised they killed off Bo’s mother and Penelope so fast, and Bo’s reaction to their deaths annoyed me to no end. He was more interested in Claes wasting away which I admit should be a focus; but it shouldn’t have been his main focus. I know he wanted to focus on the living and spend what little time he could with Claes, but really? He should’ve been trying to figure out what happened that day at the mill. What frustrated me about it was that the author made this big event of their death and then it got left to the wayside. It does kind of connect to what Bo finds out later on the family farm on Ilor but I thought it was going to be a big point of contention in the plot. I do wonder how much his mother and “Aunt” knew about the operation with the flowers. Due to the lists found at the residence I assume that his Aunt knew everything about the operation. I am also wondering if Bo’s mother found out what was happening on Ilor and either informed the Queen or decided to do something about it and that is why she was killed.
Another death that I’m not too sure about is the deaths of Lily and Sawny. Knowing what we know about how Mrs Laroche is a part of the rebellion and that Vi never even asked about their bodies I don’t think they are dead. I have this feeling that when Vi and Curlin travel to meet up with the rebels that they will meet those two there are Vi will get a happy reunion. I sure hope this is the case because if not then it is just another two side characters that were thrown to the wayside in this story.
I don’t know if I quite trust Quill. How can you really trust someone who is basically bartering you away to the highest bidder? And how does Vi still like him even after he basically sold her (albeit willingly) to the highest bidder and also made a contract to benefit his family on the side? I didn’t really understand it and to be honest I still don’t. Also, what a good job Quill did finding a good master for Vi; one who whips his servants and kills them! I know that he loves Vi and does for the most part care about her wellbeing but there’s just something about him that rubs me the wrong way. I much prefer Mal in that set of twins because at least he is honest and earnest.
I have to agree with Swindon in the fact that Queen Runa has to already know what the Suzerain are up to with the flowers and the Diminished. I just want to know why she hasn’t already done something about it? Or maybe she has, maybe the Queen is supporting the rebellion on Ilor. That would make a great twist and it seems like the sly kind of thing Runa would do. I’m looking forward to seeing her reaction to Bo confronting her with what he saw on the island. I really hope he doesn’t bow to her pressure and makes a stand for his people and himself.
Bo’s cousin Rainor is quite the enigma and I don’t know what to make of her. I don’t 100% agree with Bo in that she has excused herself from the race of the heir. I do wonder how much she is involved, because watching from the outside to see everybody’s moves is quite brilliant in my mind. And then to make Bo feel at ease by pretending she isn’t interested? A very smart move there too. And if she truly wasn’t interested in the throne then would she not be helping Bo? I have a feeling she is going to become more important in the next book.
XA: GOAT was quite the mystery. When it was first introduced in the book I racked my brain because there must have been some kind of clue already given in the story to what it may be. But I couldn’t come up with anything which actually got me quite frustrated. Then I didn’t quite believe it when it had something to do with his father’s legitimacy. It made sense when it turned out to be about Bo and Vi and how they are actually twins. I was also really frustrated with all of the adults involved when I found out then extent of this mystery, especially the Queen. I found it extremely heartbreaking and cruel for the Queen to have basically bought her heir. To have separated Vi and Bo, and to make Vi a Diminished when she was in no way one is especially cruel. She had to grow up with that stigma, thinking she was no one and had no family. They could have said that both children died and then sent her away somewhere to be raised better than she was.
I was surprised to find that Vi’s parents still came to see her after they abandoned her. I thought that she was a blight on the family as a dimmy so they would rather forget she ever existed. And to add salt to the wound by bringing her new siblings? That seems unusually cruel. I think it would’ve been better for all involved for her family not to have seen her. Especially if they were afraid of the church putting two and two together that Bo and Vi are twins.
I figured out pretty early on in the book that the Suzerain were doing something to control the Diminished. I knew when they said something happened every month or two. It seemed too much like clockwork for me and that immediately raised my suspicions. I didn’t know that they were actually drugging them, I figured they were just holding the ones who were orphans in cages and releasing them to the public when they’ve hit their breaking point. The poison is a much more sinister way of doing it and requires more people to know about the plan than I thought the Suzerain would be content with knowing.
I am sad that the next book is going to be separated storylines again with Bo going to see the Queen to set things right and Vi going to the rebels to help her with what knowledge she has while at the same time gaining safety from them. It will be interesting to see her meet up with the amalgam and Myrna again without any secrets left between them. Mrs Laroche was ready to use Bo as a hostage though so will she do the same to Vi? I’m looking forward to finding out.
Overall I don’t feel like this was a bad book but it dragged on and it seems like it took forever for something to actually happen. I am hoping that the pace will pick up in the next book now that we have got the story up and running. I have a bunch of questions that I want answered so while I wasn’t blown away by the first book, I do plan on continuing the series.
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