This is the first instalment in the ‘Cursed Kingdoms Trilogy’ by Emily Gee and honestly I found it to be a wonderful start. This is an epic fantasy series, following multiple points of view; all of the characters converging on the destruction of three stones that are pulling a curse across the kingdoms.
Her magic may be the only thing that can save a prince- and the Seven Kingdoms.
In a distant corner of the Seven Kingdoms, an ancient curse festers and grows, consuming everything in its path. Only one man can break it: Harkeld of Osgaard, a prince with Mage’s blood in his veins. But Prince Harkeld has a bounty of his head- and assassins at his heels.
Innis is a gifted shapeshifter. Now she must do the forbidden: become a man. She must stand at Prince Harkeld’s side as his armsman, protecting and deceiving him.
But the deserts of Masse are more dangerous than the assassins hunting the prince. The curse has awoken the deadly creatures, and the magic Prince Harkeld loathes may be the only thing standing between him and death.
Now this blurb made me not only buy the first book, but the entire series. It has assassins, mages, curses, and walking deadly creatures. It has trickery and politics. It has love and danger. It has everything I love in a good fantasy series.
Okay, it had a bit of a slower start but honestly that might have been because I was in a book hangover from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and didn’t feel connected until about 100 pages in. But from the moment the characters registered with me, the pages flew by and I ended up completing it over two evenings.
The plot is a simple one, get the Prince to each of the stones to end the curse before the entire Seven Kingdoms are in ruins. There isn’t much in terms of sub-plots, a few minor love interests and gender/age inequality fights that go one; but the main focus is always on the Prince. The only exception to this is one of the points of view, Jaume is eight and his family fell to the curse and he is on the run; honestly Jaume was the only character I felt no connection with and was grateful that his chapters were only a handful of pages at a time and rarely there. The only interesting thing that happened in Jaume’s chapters was the very last one, where he becomes a brother in another group of interest.
The other characters I found myself fascinated with, the way they all acted under the different situations amazed me; they introduce you to the ‘police’ of the mage world, the sentinel mages that are responsible for patrolling and teaching all of the mages in the world. Innis is an exceptionally powerful (where most can only shift for half a day, Innis doesn’t know the capabilities of her power) and young sentinel and this is the cause of many arguments and belittling. Especially when sexual things start happening with the Prince and the others are rather quick to prevent her having to either witness or sometimes even know about it.
One of the things that did confuse me slightly was the turning from young woman into a fully battle-trained man. Yes, the men do help her but honestly some of the things should have been more new to her, if as they say, she has never been able to take the form of another person or man before. That was the only qualm with this particular plot point that I found unexplained, but overall I found all of the shapeshifting amazing!
Overall I loved the start of this trilogy and have put the next book on my ‘to read’ list for the next few weeks. This was a secure 4 star read for me, it would have been 5 stars if Jaume had been more convincing and engaging.
I highly recommend this read!