Rating: ★ ★ ★
This book was so passionately recommended to me by a friend that I was dying to read it by the time I picked it up. The concept seemed so intriguing that I was sure it would be great, and although the concept of it was, I found the book as a whole to be a little disappointing.
Twylla lives in the palace, and is engaged to the prince, but that doesn’t mean she’s happy. She is the embodiment of the goddess Daunen, which mean that her touch is fatal and she must serve as the Queen’s executioner. The only people who are immune to her touch, and so not terrified of her, are the royal family themselves, but they barely speak to her, and so she is mostly alone. However, this all changes when Twylla is assigned a new guard – Lief. He treats her like an ordinary girl, talks to her, tells her stories, and jokes around with her, but more importantly, he can touch her. Twylla must figure out how much of what she has been told is truth, and how much is a lie, and what her place in the world is now that everything is being thrown into doubt.
I absolutely loved the idea of a girl who can kill with her touch. I absolutely loved the idea of a girl who isn’t sure whether she really is who people say she is. Everything about this sounded great to begin with, but Twylla just fell flat. Although I understand that her character is that of a girl who has been raised pretty much in isolation, devoted to her goddess and to tradition, I didn’t feel like there was enough of an insight into Twylla’s mind to make me relate to her. She didn’t do anything because she’s terrified, but I didn’t see her thinking anything of note either. She spends the whole book afraid, while everyone else acts, and I kept waiting and wishing that she would do something to gain my respect, but it just didn’t come. Although I’m not exactly a big fan of stereotypical ‘strong female characters’, Twylla was the complete other extreme. I don’t feel like she deserved the title of heroine based on her actions in this book.
Most of this book is quite slow-paced and based around Twylla realising the dark realities of her life in the palace. To be honest, I had no idea where anything was going for most of it, but I didn’t mind because Melinda Salisbury’s writing is easy to read and, while not right up my street, I didn’t mind it. It didn’t linger too long on any one aspect like some writers do, and the book isn’t particularly long, so I didn’t get bored. However, that all changed towards the end of the novel. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that made me do such a drastic switch from being sort of uninterested but reading because I didn’t want to give up to making me stay up late into the night to finish it! The last few chapters moved so quickly, and everything – I mean everything – went to hell. All of the passages from earlier in the novel that I didn’t really know the relevance of suddenly were relevant and fit together like a puzzle. While I would have liked for the drama to have been a bit more evenly spread, it didn’t really ruin the reading experience because it’s quite a short book, but it does mean that if you get bored, you just have to stick it out.
The final part of this novel that I’m going to discuss is the romance plot. It was predictable from the moment I read the blurb, but predictable isn’t necessarily bad. Lief wasn’t a bad character or love interest, but he also fell a little bit flat because he just seemed too perfect. I’m not sure if there is a male equivalent of a Mary Sue, but Lief was it (Google tells me it’s Gary-Stu, but that sounds stupid, so I’m not going to use it). While there were some plot twists with regards to this, I just didn’t really care about Lief or the love story. I resented how quickly the relationship developed and deepened, but this won’t bother people who are more into love stories than I am, and the way that Melinda Salisbury wrapped up this novel rescued this plot line as well.
Update: Since reviewing this book, I’ve reviewed the second book in the series The Sleeping Prince. You can read that review here!