Rating: ★ ★ ★
I read this book in two days, and while I consider myself to be a relatively fast reader, 400+ pages is not something I usually achieve in two days. I just couldn’t help myself. There was Greek mythology, a feisty protagonist with an intriguing backstory and powers, and an original setting with politics and magic woven in. This book wasn’t perfect, but I did really enjoy it and probably will read the sequel at some point.
The book is about Cat, who at the beginning of the book is a circus member (but not for long, because if there is one thing that this book does, it is move fast). One day, a war lord called Griffin shows up and senses that her magical powers are more than they seem, and kidnaps her. It turns out that this war lord has just taken over the kingdom and put his sister on the throne, upending a political structure that has been around for centuries and he needs Cat and her magical skills to help him keep hold of the throne.
I loved the setting and the magic in this story. It was unlike anything I had seen before. For one, the mix between Greek mythology and magic was so different. The book probably would have been good with just the one, but the melding of the two systems was really interesting to read. Secondly, Cat’s powers were so cool! She can not only sense when someone is lying, but she can also steal magic from other people and creatures, meaning that she can store it up for use later (she spends half of the book breathing fire, and how much cooler can you get?). The society itself was another thing that I loved; people are either Magoi (magical) or Hoi Poloi (humans). The Magoi have always ruled before, but now Griffin and his family have ended this. Towards the second half of the novel we see a lot of the politics of this taking centre stage of the story, and I can’t wait to see how this part of the story develops in the second novel.
My issue with this book was the central relationship. I hate when male love interests are possessive and irrationally jealous, and especially when this is portrayed as being romantic or endearing. Even worse, I hated the passages where it seemed like Cat was being pressured into doing things that she really didn’t want to do, and where her concerns weren’t being listened to or respected properly. There was literally a passage where Cat (talking about having sex) says something along the lines of: “I should have known I couldn’t keep saying no.” I understand that people’s views can change, but I would have really appreciated seeing Amanda Bouchet more clearly highlight the issues of consent in the representation of the central relationship, especially as the novel gets quite steamy. If it wasn’t for this, which really rubbed me the wrong way, I would have loved this novel!