KINGDOMS WILL RISE AND FALL FOR HER…
“Cat” Catalia Fisa lives disguised as a soothsayer in a traveling circus. She is perfectly content avoiding the danger and destiny the Gods—and her homicidal mother—have saddled her with. That is, until Griffin, an ambitious warlord from the magic-deprived south, fixes her with his steely gaze and upsets her illusion of safety forever.
BUT NOT IF SHE CAN HELP IT
Griffin knows Cat is the Kingmaker, the woman who divines the truth through lies. He wants her as a powerful weapon for his newly conquered realm—until he realizes he wants her for much more than her magic. Cat fights him at every turn, but Griffin’s fairness, loyalty, and smoldering advances make him increasingly hard to resist and leave her wondering if life really does have to be short, and lived alone.
When I first started this book, I almost immediately had my doubts. It’s written in 1st person, present tense. I don’t know why this doesn’t normally work for me, but it never has. I’m glad I kept reading because it soon became hard for me to remember that Amanda Bouchet is a debut author. I fell into the story, wandering the world with these characters, quickly and easily. Nothing could pull me out of it, and all I wanted to do was sit and read until I’d devoured it all.
Which is pretty much what I did.
I first got this book for review over a year ago. Then I went through a long book slump where the only thing I could read was favorites – I read and re-read my favorite books for nearly a year, with just a couple of new ones sprinkled in. Almost every time I picked up a new book, I ended up hating it or DNFing it. So it’s probably a good thing I held off so long. I’m glad I did, because I was finally ready for this book when I started it yesterday.
And I’m thankful that I have the second book for review as I finished this one today.
I’m going to talk, quickly, about a couple of things that I either expected to bother me, or that did bother me (though not enough to take away from my enjoyment in this book and world). First is the “captive” trope. Cat is captured by Griffin early in the book. She’s literally tied to him, physically, for nearly a quarter of the book, then she’s bound by her binding vow for another good portion of the book. I expected this to bother me quite a lot. It removes agency from the heroine, places everything – including, and especially her feelings – into doubt, and usually doesn’t allow for me to even begin to like the captor.
But, for some reason, it didn’t do that here. Griffin didn’t take advantage – at all. And, in all honesty, he was doing what he felt needed to be done for the good of many, including the family that he loves. Does that make it any easier to be the captive? Not really, but as a reader it blurred the lines a bit for me. For Cat’s part, even though she’s captive, it didn’t really diminish her agency, fight, or spirit at all. She has no problem fighting, going kicking and screaming, or making life as difficult as possible for her captor. As she should. I thoroughly enjoyed that even while I understood what Griffin was doing (and it still feels a little weird to call him Griffin as he’s referred to as Beta Sinta through most of the book).
I’m going to talk next about the sex and before I go there, I want to get the captive thing out of the way. Captive and sex don’t mix for me. And while there was flirtation and thought before on both Cat and Griffin’s part, nothing happened while she was his captive. Nothing happened until she’d asked for – and been granted – release from her vow without any other binding on her. She went into this relationship, however convoluted and complicated, of her own free will. I’m sorry if that’s a spoiler, and it’s a minor one, but it needs to be stated because it’s something that I worried about when I saw which way the wind was blowing.
My one complaint about this book? The sex. Don’t listen to me when I say that – I used to be a prolific reader of romance, all kinds of romance, the sexier the better. I loved the sex in these books. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And now? Meh. I just don’t. I’d rather read something else. It would have been nice to have a couple of answers or discussions at the end instead of more sex…There is some definite relationship building during some of the sex scenes, and there’s some important plot points that come into play in a couple of places, but if the sex scenes aren’t your thing – rest assured, you can skim or skip. If the sex scenes are your thing – well, they are actually pretty hot.
Everything else in this book I absolutely loved. From the world to the characters to the magic. It was enchanting, evocatively written, and tension-filled. I can’t wait to go back. Let me talk a little about the world. We’re firmly in the realm of Greek mythology – Olympus and the Gods play a fairly active, if usually distant, roll in this world. Magic is plentiful, if you’re of the right bloodlines or blessed by the Gods, and all sorts of magical creatures are roaming the world. Thalyria is the overall land, split into three kingdoms: Sinta, Tarva, and Fisa (from least to most magical) by war many years ago. And I find I don’t want to say too much more for fear of ruining the story. Be forewarned – the Gods do interfere in the world, even if they’re maddeningly unspecific and demanding.
I opened this book at exactly the right moment. It was perfect, everything I didn’t know I was looking for. The world intrigues me, the characters make me feel, and the story that I can see just beginning to form makes me need to read more. And now it’s time for me to dive into the next one.