This book represents a significant increase in the maturity of Grace Draven’s work, both in terms of content and in terms of writing technique.
Gilene has fire magic and so when her village needs to send a tithe to be burnt alive, she is chosen because she can survive. Year after year, she pays the tithe to keep her village safe. Azarion is the most famous gladiator in the empire. Enslaved to fight in the pit day after day, he yearns for freedom…and revenge.
This may be my favorite Grace Draven book so far. It’s just so well written, with characters that are fleshed out and perfectly flawed. They seem so real, and she has a talent at getting you to care so much about them. Did I mention it’s a slow-burn enemies-to-lovers story? It’s my favorite trope and it’s expertly done.
OK, let’s get to the world-building. This has always been the strong point of Grace Draven’s work, and it shows here. This is a new series and separate from the other shared world that her works occupy. It’s a fantasy that has a bit of a historical feel, with the Empire and nomadic groups. It looks like quite a lot of research and planning went into making this so vivid.
All in all, this was a dark, beautiful fantasy brimming with emotions.
Just to note, this is a slightly more mature Grace Draven book. Azarion is a slave, and Gilene is a village sacrifice. The two of them are not left unaffected by this.
Fantasy romance fans