In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame.
When Alu’s ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her.
But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence.
Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life—and heart—are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself.
Massive thanks to Susan over at Novel Lives for not only talking about this book non stop so I needed it, but also treating me to it for my birthday. You da best!!
Kammani is just trying to keep her family afloat after her mother’s death and her fathers subsequent drop into alcoholism. Taking over his medical practice she manages to just about keep them above water, but for her younger sister Nanaea this life isn’t enough, and she will do anything to get back to the privileged life they once held. When Nanaea is picked to become one of the Sacred Maidens, beautiful girls who travel to the afterlife with the Lugal to the afterlife she is ecstatic but Kammani feels different, she doesn’t see it as a privilege but a death sentence and she will do anything in her power to make sure it doesn’t happen, even if that means travelling to the Palace and trying to heal the Lugal herself. Unfortunately for Kamanni there are people working against her and in the end two sisters might be sacrificed instead of the one.
Kamanni was a fantastically written character, I found myself bonding with her within the first few pages and as a big sister myself I could totally empathise with her willingness to do almost anything to protect her family. She is headstrong, resilient and unwavering in her loyalty to her family and friends, even if her own life is at stake. She was a fantastic perspective to read the book from and by far my favourite character. Nanaea was a stereo-typical younger sibling, naive, bratty and she believes the world owes her something. She wants the privilege that comes with being a sacred maiden and loves living in the spotlight. I only truly started to like her characters when we learn her true reasons for wanting to be sacrificed. The book is centred around these two sisters and their brother who was taken from them at an early age to live at the palace, and because of that we see an awful lot of character growth throughout the book. Through Kammani who is way out of her depth in political intrigue to Nanaea who simply doesn’t grasp the consequences of her actions.
This book was full of political intrigue with a boat load of twists and turns that keep you guessing through most of the book. I loved the almost ‘murder mystery’ plot style that ran alongside Kamanni’s story and found myself ridiculously invested in the plot. There is one blatantly obvious antagonist, a character you hate from the get-go and his gruesome punishment style and general attitude towards women make him someone easy to hate. However, you know it would be too easy to make him the main villain and the author manages to weave multiple options into the plot that have you questioning every move they make.
The main ‘love’ in this book is familial, the love between family and the friends you choose to make family. How people will do almost anything for the people they love even if it means putting themselves in harms way. More and more books recently are choosing to focus on the familial rather than romantic love and I am here for it. That being said, there was a romantic love interest in this book and I both loved him and found him slightly problematic. Dragan wants nothing more to provide for Kammani and her family, but he just goes about it in slightly the wrong way. In some places it felt like he was almost pressuring her to accept his proposal, and he was so sure that he knew what was right for her. By the end of the book he does come around and realises that she is strong enough to look after herself, I just found him a little problematic at the beginning.
The authors writing style had me flying through the pages, there was plenty of action and though it doesn’t end on a massive cliffhanger, the end of the book definitely leaves you wanting more. If you’re looking for a book filled with political intrigue, familial love, typical sibling interaction, fantasy with murder mystery thrown in then this is the book for you. I will definitely be picking up the sequel as well as anything else the author writes 4.5*.