I received a copy from Netgalley.
I had forgotten I pre ordered this one so wound up with a finished Kindle copy as well. The premise of this YA fantasy sounded interesting enough, two different sisters have spent their lives prepping for a certain roles and something happens and their positions get switched over.
I’m torn on this one because the story itself was interesting enough to want to know what was going to happen but everything felt very flat and under developed. In this fantasy world women have no rights. They’re not allowed even allowed to read, or study – they’re there to either marry and raise a family or work without questions in dull factories. The most coveted role for a woman is a Grace – the perfect example of the demure subservient woman.
Perspective Graces are chosen and get to live a life of luxury at the palace to be of service to the King and his Heir as and when called for. Serina has been prepping her whole life to be a Grace, her younger more rebellious sister Nomi is going to be her Handmaiden. At least that way they will be together. A Grace’s family is looked after and lives a life of wealth as well. Serina is all light and fluff. Nomi is the more serious twin. She wants to be able to make her own choices, her own decisions without the approval of a man. She’s already rebelled in her own way and learned something she shouldn’t be able to do.
Yet when the girls get to the palace, it’s Nomi who’s chosen as a Grace, and has no idea how to handle it. She’s never been interested in learning things like dancing and needlepoint. She has also caught the attention of the king’s Heir, Malachi, who’s supposed to be cold and mean. And dangerous.
At the start of this I had the feeling that the reader is supposed to be rooting for Nomi because she doesn’t want to conform to the role set out for her. However, I found Nomi to be an idiot. She makes a major error and Serina pays for it to protect her sister. Nomi is floundered by being a Grace, and now has to do it without Serina’s help.
She also manages to catch the eye of the Heir’s brother Asa, who’s very handsome and charming (and much nicer than Malachi). He’s kind and helpful. I found Nomi to be utterly annoying and eye rollingly stupid in some of her actions while she gets to know Asa and starts falling head over heels for him. Graces are not permitted to take lovers. They are for the Heir only.
Serina’s story, meanwhile, took a really unexpected turn. She’s forced into a tough situation where she has to rely on her strength and self preservation to survive, it’s a massive shock to her system and it’s utterly captivating. Quite horrific as well and brutal as Serina navigates her new word. Serina turned out for me to be the much stronger sister, and she was the one who drove the story forward to keep me interested in reading.
Nomi’s chapters made me want to throw things.
While the story was fairly fast paced, there was something…lacking from the story as a whole. The characters weren’t really fleshed out much, Serina was the only one in my opinion who showed some major growth. And if the novel was all about her, then I probably would have rated it higher. She’s the reason I want to read the next book.
One thing I did really like was the sense of family and belonging to each other the girls have, they would do anything for each other. Their older brother Renzo has a part to play in the story too and he’s part of that close-knit family unity. The end picked up a bit, there was a twist which is one of those I should have seen that coming from a mile away (but didn’t) things. While this is never going to be a favourite fantasy, it certainly had potential and I’m interested to see where the story will go next.
Thank you Netgalley and Hachette Children’s Group for the review copy.