For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts his younger sister, Nadia, as payment to enter the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.
But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.
When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a heart-pounding course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?
This book takes place in the city of Ziran during the week of Solstasia which happens once every 50 years. Told from the dual perspective of Malik and Karina the princess of Ziran.
Malik and his sisters, Leila and Nadia, have been travelling to Ziran for a very long timebut they are scared because they are Eshran, and the Eshrani people are not welcome in Ziran, they have fake documents to help them cross into the city and hide their true identity. However, when they are in line to cross into the city Maliks bag holding all of their fake documents gets stolen, which leads them to experience their first encounter with magic for a payment. A Griot is telling a story near the boarder of Ziran and Nadia, the youngest of the three siblings begs her brother and sister to sit and listen, at the end of the story the Griot asks for the answer to a riddle and Nadia gets it right and thus gets her wish to cross the boarder into the city, but when Nadia gets taken by Idir as a price for her wish Malik and Leila will do whatever it takes to get their sister back including kill the princess.
Meanwhile Princess Karina is gearing up to Solstasia, a week long celebration and competition between the different alignments to find out which alignment will rule for the next 50 years. Karina doesn’t want to be princess she wants to leave Ziran and explore the world, and after the loss of her father and sister the relationship between her and her mother deteriorates, and Karina turns to drink. However, one evening the Sultana Haissa Saharel or the Kestrel as she is known tells Karina the secrets of the city and the role Karina will have to one play, but then an assasin takes the Kestrel’s life and Karina is left on her own with no family and no one to turn to. Karina finds a book which could help her bring her mother back, but at a price, the heart of a king.
One of my favourite things about this book was the descriptions of Ziran and how much it reminded me of Aladin. The colours and the smells, I felt like I was there with both Malik and Karina, it is such a beautiful city, full of people from all over.
Another of my favourite things was the description of Karinas’ despair and anguish after losing her mother. Roseanne A. Brown did such a beautiful job of describing the pain and emptiness of losing someone you love, I really felt for Karina in those moments.
I did find myself getting frustrated with both Karina and Malik because they kept forgetting their role, especially Malik, during the competition I found that he was thinking less of his sisters and more of what was happening in the moment and I just kept asking myself ‘what about Nadia!? What about Leila!? You don’t even know where they are’.
I also found that the connection between Malik and Karina wasn’t quite strong enough for it to be called love. To me it felt more like a crush at most because they had only spoken a handful of times.
Another thing that bothered me was that Karina required the heart of a King to help bring back er mother, so she offered her hand in marriage to the winner of solstasia, however, there were women in the competition and that wasn’t ever really explored. Karina stated that she wouldn’t be bothered by marrying a woman but that was never fully developed. I didn’t understand if she was bisexual or not. I do feel like that could have been developed a bit more.
I will be reading the next book though because I did enjoy it a lot!
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