Audience: YA Fantasy + Romance
Length: 512 pages
Author: Amelie Wen Zhao
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: January 3rd, 2023
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads
In a fallen kingdom, one girl carries the key to discovering the secrets of her nation’s past—and unleashing the demons that sleep at its heart. An epic fantasy series inspired by the mythology and folklore of ancient China.
Once, Lan had a different name. Now she goes by the one the Elantian colonizers gave her when they invaded her kingdom, killed her mother, and outlawed her people’s magic. She spends her nights as a songgirl in Haak’gong, a city transformed by the conquerors, and her days scavenging for what she can find of the past. Anything to understand the strange mark burned into her arm by her mother in her last act before she died.
The mark is mysterious—an untranslatable Hin character—and no one but Lan can see it. Until the night a boy appears at her teahouse and saves her life.
Zen is a practitioner—one of the fabled magicians of the Last Kingdom. Their magic was rumored to have been drawn from the demons they communed with. Magic believed to be long lost. Now it must be hidden from the Elantians at all costs.
When Zen comes across Lan, he recognizes what she is: a practitioner with a powerful ability hidden in the mark on her arm. He’s never seen anything like it—but he knows that if there are answers, they lie deep in the pine forests and misty mountains of the Last Kingdom, with an order of practitioning masters planning to overthrow the Elantian regime.
Both Lan and Zen have secrets buried deep within—secrets they must hide from others, and secrets that they themselves have yet to discover. Fate has connected them, but their destiny remains unwritten. Both hold the power to liberate their land. And both hold the power to destroy the world.
Now the battle for the Last Kingdom begins.
Thank you to Delacorte Press and Netgalley for an eARC.
This lived up to a lot of hope I had for a new series starter.
An amazingly well crafted story unveiled itself over 500 pages (where I hardly noticed it was that long to begin with). I loved the writing style and most of the pacing worked well too. There’s a good balance of learning moments, action, and even a bit of romance.
My one issue was the info dumping. It was scattered throughout, but noticeable when you hit it. There were MANY explanations of the magic system, history of the world and political dynamics. All fine and dandy but I think it could have been spread out more effectively.
I loved the complexity of the magic system and yin vs. yang. Good vs. evil. It added a morally grey level that I am always here for as characters struggled to decide what kind of power they wanted to wield. I love dynamic characters who struggle and learn and grow and those arcs are definitely starting here.
The romance was sweet! I wish there had been a bit more build to the relationship, but I see the potential for continued intricacies over the series. The dual POV’s between Lan and Zen worked great for keeping the story moving and understanding multiple angles to the story.
I enjoyed multiple reveals and found that the book only got better and better. I can’t wait for the next one!!
Overall audience notes:
- YA Fantasy + Romance
- Language: a little
- Romance: kisses
- Violence: high
- Trigger/Content Warnings: mass loss of life, loss of parents, battle themes, torture, possession, assault