My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Bethany House Publishers, and the author via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Actual rating of 4.5
“The dark lady will be with you tonight.”
Selene had no idea how much that one sentence would change her life. Selene is the eldest daughter of House Ravenwood, and the time for her gifting has arrived. Once she receives the gift of House Ravenwood, she learns more about her mother and their ancestors than she cares to know. The empire is threatening to breach the borders of neighbouring houses and Lady Ragna, Selene’s mother, refuses to have her house virtually wiped from the map again. So she is ruthless, she trains Selene in the art of dreamwalking and bestows upon her great expectations as well as the weight of making sure House Ravenwood survives and thrives. Selene finds their gift hard to swallow once she learns what her mother has used it for. But she persists and tries to push down the revulsion because it serves their people and protects them. Once an assembly is called to unite the seven Houses to discuss the encroaching empire and what to do, Selene meets Lord Damien of House Maris, she is torn by him because the Lords and Ladies of the great houses cannot marry. Once a Lord or Lady marries, his or her consort instantly learns that house’s secrets. However, Damien and Selene both feel an undeniable pull towards each other. Selene must choose whether she follows her mother’s plans which would ensure the survival of House Ravenwood, or whether she follows her heart and what she believes to be right and see the downfall of her once great house.
Wow. Wow wow wow. I was NOT expecting this at all. The premise was super interesting and the cover caught my eye, hence me requesting it in the first place, but holy mother of god. This was totally so much better than what I was expecting. Houses each bestowed with their own gifts, different gifts, and House Ravenwood’s gift was just amazing. The ability to dreamwalk and manipulate the person’s dream is just awesome. I love how dark and cold Lady Ragna was, and once we find out what the gift has been used for I must admit, I gasped. I was all “noooooooooo.” It just seemed so underhanded and sneaky!
I absolutely LOVE the conflict that Selene feels. She knows what happened to her house all those centuries ago, she understands her mother’s absolute hatred for the other houses, but she is still torn. I believe this shows how deep her character is, it would be so easy to fall into the belief that her mother holds, but having grown up with their servants and learning about who they are as people, that they are more than just servants is where it starts. Her mother using different servants for Selene to practice her dreamwalking skills on, makes her uncomfortable in the beginning, but when she delves deeper, when she learns the truth, she must harden her heart, lock it away where it cannot feel, otherwise she knows that she will break. That she will let her mother and House Ravenwood down. It is an absolutely heartbreaking decision. It’s not because of letting her mother down either, Lady Ragna comes across as such an unlikable character (though you can understand why she is the way she is the more we learn) that this is not what is tearing Selene apart. She doesn’t want her sisters to have to carry the mantel of House Ravenwood because she couldn’t. She doesn’t want to subject her sister Amara (even though she’s a bitch and so much like Lady Ragna she could be a clone in personality) and especially not her baby sister Ophie. It would break her heart to know that her sisters had to take her place because she wasn’t strong enough. And so she locks her humanity away to try and cope.
And Damian, oh Damian. What a beautiful soul (literally ha!). I absolutely loved his characters, he’s torn apart because he knows that his gift has the power to kill but he wants to avoid that at all costs, though he knows it’s not always possible. He’s the youngest Great Lord to ever rule a house, and he didn’t get there through positive means. He has suffered the loss of his parents and little brother which still haunt him. He is just such a well rounded character. And he is SO caring and SO ABSOLUTELY FREAKING LOVELY I JUST CAN’T! I love how he is pulled towards Selene, he needs to know her, to know why she hides behind the cold mask of indifference.
I also absolutely loved the contrast between these two characters. Selene has taken on her house’s gift with her mother there to guide her and she feels trapped in an absolute pit of despair, unable to breathe, to escape and reach the light. Where Damian has come into his gift through tragedy and must learn about everything without the guiding hand of his father. It made me wonder, would Damian have been taught differently by his father? Would he have ended up in a similar place as Selene had everything gone as it should and his parents were still around? I honestly don’t believe it would have been different. Damian is so kind and caring and I believe that came from his parents, the whole family just sounds like a giant ball of sunshine to be honest. But it still raised the questions.
The pacing was good, at times I felt it was a little slow, especially at the beginning, but once it got going and we were thrown into the story it was pretty constant non-stop go. All of the characters were so well written and well rounded. There were no two dimensional characters here, no sirree!! The world building was fantastic. I absolutely LOVE the idea of the different Houses and their gifts. It was just amazing. I cannot wait until book two. The romance sort of made an appearance and the way it was written was done perfectly, and it’s made me crave more. I NEED BOOK TWO NOW PLEASE!