By: Angie Haddock
Raised in Karkov, a military, male-dominant kingdom, twins Natalia and Jillian know nothing but battle. When Jillian emerges as the dominant twin and apparent heir to the throne, Natalia, the softer and more diplomatic sister, ceases her military training. As Natalia prepares to marry the prince of her father’s favored Western ally, Jillian is set to become the first woman Lion of Karkov. But things don’t go as planned when the older generation of warriors values her womb over her sword. Suddenly, the role Jillian has fought for all her life is slipping through her fingers…and she’s not about to let it go without a fight.
This book is a chonky one, coming in right around 600 pages… but it’s also full of action and moves quickly. So you’ll understand that the blurb at top really only encompasses about the first 100 pages! It does, however, introduce you to our two main characters.
Jillian and Natalia were raised without a mother, and they are literally the only females they’ve ever known. It’s also their society’s tradition to kill off female babies born to the king – known as the Lion – and also any additional siblings, once one is deemed the Heir. So, the fact that either of them live to be teens – let alone BOTH of them – is already “against tradition.” And we meet them as teens here, although we do occasionally hear stories from their earlier years. Their mere existence is revolutionary, and they know this, so they don’t expect to be hemmed in by old traditions now.
But as Jillian learns more about the traditions that have come before her, she becomes convinced that neither her nor Natalia can be a part of them. Natalia is set to leave, anyway, but can Jillian protect her if they’re apart?
Both twins have a fierce loyalty to each other, which is sustained throughout the entire book. It’s one of the few things that doesn’t change!
As I said, this book moves quickly. We see characters move geographically, and visit these other neighboring kingdoms. I should say that all the kingdoms are roughly based on actual places we know, seemingly around the 1700s of our own history. (This estimate is largely based on the technology available to our characters.)
We also see a lot of action. I am not big into war books, or battle strategies, and there is some of that in here. But the story always moves on from it, and it never felt overwhelming.
One thing that caught me off guard a few times is that the characters would often make a plan – or learn of one being crafted by the opposition – and then we’d see that carried out within mere paragraphs! Even in a book this big, not a lot of time is wasted waiting for the next thing to happen.
There are wars, alliances and betrayals, and also a citizen rebellion. That aspect definitely gave me some “Les Mis” vibes. If you’re into European historical stuff, I’m sure you could draw even more parallels.
Another interesting aspect to me is that, with a book this big, there were some characters that I grew to like… and then didn’t see again for a few hundred pages. But honestly, despite the deeply troubling pasts of these countries, there are many likeable characters in here. There are even a few who will surprise you.
Many of our characters converge in the last 100 pages or so, when four of the nations prepare for a battle. Considering there are multiple warriors, military leaders, and royals involved – I was happy to see that the machismo was not too heavy. Sure, some grumbled about their ideas being better than someone else’s, but mostly the men involved all wanted to do what was best, and were willing to work together to make it happen. And I was very happy that the battle was not too long.
This one comes out today, March 14th. I was gifted an advanced copy from Books Forward. The author, Dale Griffin, is donating $2 from every copy sold to Girls, Inc. from now through the end of April. If you’re into fantasy and action, pick this one up today!