Isn’t this title so interesting? It definitely conveys just how twisted a fairytale this book is, that’s for sure. I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!
Tala Warnock has little use for magic – as a descendant of Maria Makiling, the legendary Filipina heroine, she negates spells, often by accident. But her family’s old ties to the country of Avalon (frozen, bespelled, and unreachable for almost 12 years) soon finds them guarding its last prince from those who would use his kingdom’s magic for insidious ends.
And with the rise of dangerous spelltech in the Royal States of America; the appearance of the firebird, Avalon’s deadliest weapon, at her doorstep; and the re-emergence of the Snow Queen, powerful but long thought dead, who wants nothing more than to take the firebird’s magic for her own – Tala’s life is about to get even more complicated….
I’m going to say right off the bat that this book is really, really confusing. It felt like I was thrown right into the middle of something, like it was expected that I know what they’re talking about when they say “spelltech,” “agimat,” (I think I spelled these right?) and other words. It’s also kind of a weird setting because it’s modern day but also fairytale characters like Snow White and King Arthur are real. Also, there’s a kingdom that has castles with armored kings but also they drive cars. Are you as confused as me yet? I wish we had been eased into the magic system/setting more because, even though I finished the book with slightly better understanding of the world than I initially had, I’m still lost.
Aside from that, most other aspects of this book are interesting and well-written. I like the banter between characters because it reminds me of my friends and family. The plot is fast-paced and filled with plenty of twists. The action scenes are plentiful but not overwhelming, and it seems like the author took care to describe these in enough detail to be understood and enjoyed.
The characters themselves lean a bit more toward the flat side in the beginning but, as we encounter some of those plot twists, gain more depth and personality. One thing I question is how Alex has such clear memories of things that happened when he was so young, but maybe that’s just because my own memory is terrible. He also seemed pretty all over the map with his mood, which didn’t make much sense to me. Aside from that I found most of the characters to be pretty well-written. I really liked Tala’s family and her father’s storyline, in particular.
This book is really diverse in many ways, with characters from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds as well as several lgbtq+ characters. This diversity felt very natural and not at all forced just to be mainstream or to preach the author’s own beliefs.
The plotline itself is interesting and I really like the cliffhanger the book ends on. I’ll be looking for book two’s publication date, but I can’t say I loved this first book. I probably would have given it 4-5 stars had the magic system made any sense, but instead I finished the book still feeling confused. I’d recommend this only if you want to work hard to understand the book’s world. If you’re looking for something more easily understandable, look somewhere else.
Have you read this or any of the author’s other books? What did you think?