Author: Audrey Coulthurst.
Published: Published November 22nd 2016 by Balzer + Bray.
Source: Edelweiss and publisher, thanks!
Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden. Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine (called Mare), sister of her betrothed.
When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, each discovers there’s more to the other than she thought. Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. Soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more. But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.
Dennaleia has been betrothed to prince of Mynaria, Thandilimon, ever since childhood. Her marriage will seal an alliance they need as protection from hostile lands, like Zumordan. The only thing that will make this marriage a little hard is the fact Denna has an Affinity for Fire - and she is going to be queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden. Oh, and not to forget the fact she falls in love with Thandi's sister Amaranthine, called Mare.
This book probably has the most ridiculous names I've ever seen. They are so freaking long! I kept using the short versions (Denna, Mara and Thandi), because good luck with their true names. I understand the need to come up with original names, but after a while they all started to sound like gibberish in my head.
Thandi is the crown prince, future king and husband of Denna, but I feel like he hardly had any role in the story. He sometimes pops up to say a few words, before he disappears again. The story definitely focuses more on Denna and Mare. I get it, because the two of them fall in love, so they need more time together, but I don't think this was the right choice.
BUT, I definitely love the fact that two princesses fall in love with each other - and since the author decided to give Thandi hardly any role, there is no love-triangle. (Although we must not forget that Denna is practically cheating on Thandi, since they are officially betrothed) Denna doesn't even seem to give him a chance and spends all her time with Mare. They were sweet together, but also incredibly stupid. Let's just say that they are not the best in keeping their feelings/sort-of-relationship a secret from the outside world.
I think the author was trying to make Mare look like this rebellious, kick-ass girl, but instead she came across as childish and unnecessarily rude. I can't believe that someone who is 18 would ever act in such a way, especially a princess. I also don't believe for one second that the king wouldn't have given her away in marriage already. Denna is practically betrothed from the moment she was born, so why would Mare be any special? Until the moment where the two of them say they love each other, then suddenly the king decided he wants to ship Mare off. What a coincidence! Let's throw this in for some more drama.
Oh right, not to forget that there is also something going on to give the love story some plot. There are several assassin attempts, and one of them kills possibly the only character I absolutely loved, and Mare/Denna team up to find out who is behind it. For some reason, the king and his council decide that it has to be the Zumordan, without any prove, and they will not listen to reason. Very mature.
There are also some hints to magic. Denna is struggling with her powers, because her mother always forced her to keep it a secret. This leads to random outbursts and the discovery she doesn't only control fire. I liked this aspect, but it could have been explored more properly. I felt it got pushed away to make way for the romance and that is a shame.