I received a review copy of this book from Bookish First.
This one came up on Bookish First a few weeks ago, and I hadn't been planning on entering the drawing, but after reading the first couple of chapters I was hooked. It was an exciting day when II received a review copy of this book from Bookish First.
This one came up on Bookish First a few weeks ago, and I hadn't been planning on entering the drawing, but after reading the first couple of chapters I was hooked. It was an exciting day when I found out I'd been picked, and even more exciting when it showed up in my mailbox. One thing I don't normally comment on is cover art and printing style, but both are things I really appreciated with this book. The cover is bright, font is clean, it's eye-catching and intriguing, and it represents the book perfectly. Inside, the beginning page of each chapter sits inside what looks to be a birdcage, and every page after has a border on the side with the page number (instead of the numbers being at the bottom, they are to the right or left of the text). Every part has a dark divider page with a title. When you look at the closed book from the side, you can see every divider page. I liked the stylistic details of the printing, and having something like this in my hands was extremely satisfying.
Now that we're done with that, let's talk about the story. There is a lot going on in this book - murder, intrigue, plotting, magic, love, and betrayal. All of these can add up to a drab boring cliched tropey story, but here they all worked in sync. Teodora is a strega, she has magic - but she doesn't know much about it. She knows she can transform people into objects, but doesn't know how it works or how to do anything else. She meets a mysterious stranger, Cielo, who can change their gender at will, and longs to know more. When it becomes necessary for her to become a man - not just dress like one, but BE one - she asks Cielo to teach her. Learning how to use her magic is one of the integral plot points, because as she continues on her journey she is constantly having to adjust how she uses it. I don't want to give really any spoilers, since this was so good, so I'll just say that she gains many new abilities, and not in the best ways either.
The intrigue and mystery comes in when Teo gets to the capital city, after her father is almost murdered. She finds out that the heads of the four other Families (who each "rule" an area of the country) were also poisoned like her father, only they all died. Everyone presumes her own father is dead, and that she is her brother, Luca. Teo needs to keep pretending to be Luca in her new boyish body, while uncovering the secrets of the other sons (now heads), and figuring out a way to kill the Capo, who united and now rules the country, and who murdered the heads of four of the Five Families. She also needs to keep learning how to use her magic, and also falls in love with Cielo. She finds that the capital city isn't what it seems, especially when it comes to magic. Cielo's own search for their mother complicates matters even further. Teo is strong, smart, and cunning, but can also be foolish. There is also a traitor in their midst, and she needs to ferret out who it is while still going forward with her plan.
I loved the writing style, the plot twists that got me - I've had a hard time lately with books that have so many twists that they are either ridiculous or completely obvious, and these were pretty solid ones that I didn't always see coming. The characters grow and change and learn. Teo herself goes through a huge transformation, and not just from male to female. And I also loved how she and Cielo loved each other no matter whether they were both women, both men, or one of each. I'm not genderfluid and don't proclaim to truly understand what genderfluid people experience, but I thought it was an interesting perspective to read about people loving each other for who they are and not their gender. There are definitely some interesting gender concepts explored in this book.
Highly recommended to anyone who loves fantasy, especially gender-bending fantasy. I don't see that this is the first in a series, although I can't say that I'm disappointed for a stand-alone. I'm too depressed lately by having to wait and wait for a story to truly *end*. While I loved the world, and wanted to read more of it, especially about the strega, and Teo and Cielo's journey, I am perfectly satisfied by the ending and think it was done very well.
Looking forward to reading more books by this author in the future!...more