My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Actual rating of 4.5 Stars.
Wren is an orphan. She’s been on the run for most of her young life and has somehow managed to make it to sixteen years. She’s settled into life working in a small confectioner’s shop in Maradis. It’s not glamorous, but it’s safe, warm and monotonous, which is just what Wren wants. Until one day when a Grandmaster from the confectioner’s guild waltzes in with two of Wren’s cupcakes in hand demanding that she go with him to the guild at once. She has no idea why he’s come, or what the guild could want with her, but without much choice in the matter, goes with him anyway. Once there she meets the Guildmaster Kasper, a jolly man with a smile in his eyes. He drops an absolute bombshell on Wren when he claims that she is one of the gifted and he wants her to join the guild. She decides that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad being a part of the guild after all, when suddenly Kasper drops dead from poison and all fingers are pointing at her. Dragged into the world of the guilds, the fights, the tension and the political mess Wren is racing against the clock to prove her innocence before the Grand Inquisitor arrives home with the King, for once he gets back, Wren is going to be plain out of luck. Who poisoned the Guildmaster? Why did they frame Wren? And can she find the real killer before it’s too late?
First off, let me just say, that cover ugh, so pretty!! ❤ It was probably the first thing that caught my eye, followed closely by the premise of the story itself. A world where there are guilds centered around the craft of making different foods and drinks, throw in a few scarce individuals who have magic that can be infused into these goods which influence the recipient and you’ve got me hook, line and sinker. I thought the idea of this story was absolutely brilliant, and it was executed incredibly well. I love the idea of the guilds, and that people excel in their craft, especially if they’re gifted, I love the idea that all the gifted can have different gifts, different things they can imbue their goods with. While this isn’t explored hugely in this installment, we get the set up and the general idea on how it works. I’m hoping that this is explored greatly throughout the remaining installments.
This is a young adult novel, I wasn’t actually sure what it was at first because we don’t actually find out Wren’s age until a fair way through the story. What I love about this is Wren is not perfect in every way, which is a character type that we often come across in the young adult genre. There isn’t much description around what she looks like besides being a waif, which is simply because of her orphan on the run lifestyle she’s lived up until recently. Struggling for food and for warmth and safety. She’s actually had quite a run of bad luck since she was much younger, which has shaped who she is today. She’s very reluctant to trust or to believe that anything good can actually happen for her. So this was a nice change from a lot of other YA novels. She’s not all powerful, she has no idea what she’s doing, she’s just doing her best, hoping to stay alive a little while longer.
I love that there was so much depth to the mystery of who killed Kasper, it wasn’t just a whodunit? There was so much more story surrounding the WHY of the murder. It ran so much deeper than just a simple murder mystery which I thought was fantastic. I thought I had it figured out at one point during the story, but Luana does such a fantastic job of sowing the seeds of doubt and raising a lot of good points as to who could have been responsible, that I never felt a hundred percent sure who the real killer was until when Wren realised it herself. Yes, my earlier hunch turned out to be right, but it wasn’t cemented until the reveal so that was awesome. Even if I had have decided that I was right in the first place, it still didn’t answer the underlying question of why did it happen, this is something we can’t know until the big reveal. I love finding out things as the characters do, it’s always a drag when you figure everything out and the characters are still running around with no idea which way is up or down.
Something else that I love in this story, is the spotlight on the political aspects of the world. There is a lot of unrest, with lands being conquered, the guilds having to pay all of their gifted wares to the King for his use, as well as the secret black market for the gifted goods to be traded between guilds as well. It really adds another layer to the story including this political aspect, Maradis is not a happy land of rainbows and lollypops (though you can probably find these there in abundance), it’s a city trying to go about it’s day to day running, while the people still have the worry of invasion sitting in the back of their minds, they’re always wondering whether today will be the day that the life they know is turned inside out and they need to fear for their lives.
The characters. Wren is a fantastic protagonist, and I fell in love with her almost instantly. She’s flawed, has had a bad run, and it’s made it hard for her to trust anyone. Sable was a fantastic addition and I really enjoyed her character, she has layers which I thought was awesome and I’m really hoping that we get to learn more about who Sable really is as the series continues. Hale, for the pretty boy who everyone loves, he really proved that he had more to him than just good looks, it was refreshing to have the good looking lover boy have a personality and a brain underneath all that pretty. I loved Olivia’s character for her innocence, she likes pretty dresses, she wants to get married someday and have an army of children, she’s not stupid, and she’s just all around a lovely girl – I’m hoping we see more of her as the story continues, and I hope that her character gets to evolve a bit more too. Callidus, he was interesting. I absolutely hated him at first, and he was written so well, everything he did, he did for a reason. By the end of the story, I had a super big soft spot for the guy – I want to learn more about him, where he came from, and who he really is under the hard exterior that everyone sees. I also found that I enjoyed the Inquisitor, he wasn’t just a brute that tortures people, though he is that as well, he had a brain, he wasn’t just blindly following orders of those above him, I’m sure we’ll see more of him as the story continues, I’m kinda hoping that he plays a bigger role. I nearly forgot Lucas. The love interest. He was an okay character, I felt that he was a little flat and I’m hoping that he evolves and develops a bit more as the story progresses, I didn’t really feel that the story needed the romance aspect added at this stage, but it did drive the story forward a little as well as give Wren something to want to live for, besides her new life at the guild.
All in all, this was a fantastic story, super enjoyable and a grand adventure. It made me laugh, it made me anxious, and it made me smile. It was such a refreshing, new idea and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As soon as I finished book 1 last night, I purchased book 2 straight away. I plan to begin reading it today (sorry netgalley backlog!).