Jenn Bennett? 1930s? Vlad the Impaler and Romania? Romance? This book has it all and I couldn’t believe it when I saw it on NetGalley (by the way, thanks for the ARC in exchange for an honest review). I was a little nervous to start it because I had such high expectations, but they were met and then some!
Some legends never die…
Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.
Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.
Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it.
Jenn Bennett is one of my favorite YA romance writers so I was beyond excited when I saw she was branching into historical fiction/fantasy. She expertly combined her skills of writing great dialogue, awesome female leads, and swoony romance with gothic Romania in the 1930s, cursed artifacts, adventure, and other supernatural creepiness.
I really adored Theo. I found her thought processes and personality very relatable and loved how she pushed forward into danger and the unknown to rescue her father and learn more about her family ancestry. She felt like a very realistic character who had flaws and made mistakes but learned from them. I loved her sense of humor, especially when it was directed toward Huck. Their relationship was really great to read about and see develop as the book progressed. I loved Huck’s personality. He was funny, a bit of a chicken when it came to the fantasy/supernatural elements of the story, and genuine in his feelings. It was refreshing to have a male character who cries, shows pain, and actually talks about how he feels in addition to being daring, protective, and a bit cocky. These two were a lot of fun to read!
The setting and atmosphere of the book were everything. The 1930s time period was really interesting. I don’t know much about the 30s but this really makes me want to learn more about it. The dark atmosphere of the Carpathian mountains/Romania was so cool. It really helped build the occult groups, witches, and blood magic into something even creepier than it would have been otherwise. Combine this with the history of Vlad the Impaler and other mass-murdering figures of history and you have an impressively gothic story.
This book feels like a standalone but the ending also seems to leave it open for another book. I would love to see Theo and her family go on more occult adventures, but it feels like the main story ends here so we sadly might not get a book 2. Regardless, this was a fun read that caught me from page one and wouldn’t let me go. I’d highly recommend The Lady Rogue!
When I first started reading this it reminded me of the Theodosia Throckmorton series by R.L. LaFevers. It’s a children’s series but definitely has the same sense of adventure, history, and magic as The Lady Rogue. It also has another spunky female lead with a slightly bumbling father who needs saving from dark magic, as well as a strong and adventurous mother.
I’m also reminded a bit of the Age of Legends series by Kelley Armstrong with the dark magic, forest setting, unclear romance, and dragon references.