Serina and Nomi live in a world where women have no rights, and their only real chance to become rich is to be able to marry one of the Royals. Serina has trained for this her whole life and has chosen her sister Nomi to be her handmaid. Everything seems to be perfect until Nomi is chosen by a Royal instead of her. Then, she is caught “reading” to Nomi when she was really only reciting a story from memory while holding one of Nomi’s books. This act sends her to the women’s prison, where she must fight for her life just to receive food on a regular basis. Nomi is also going through her own struggles as she has to learn how to be a Royal. She was always known as the extra girl, the one who wasn’t supposed to have to learn anything, and would become an old made or get married to someone she didn’t love. The two sisters must try to work through their struggles while feeling almost completely isolated.
When I started reading this novel, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Lately, I had read a few fantasy novels based in worlds where women have no rights. This setting was starting to get old to me, but I still wanted to give this one a try. Boy, was I glad that I did!
Not only did women simply not have any rights in this story, they also weren’t allowed to learn to read. The women’s jail that Serina was in heavily reminded me of the Hunger Games, with all of the prisoners routinely forced to fight to the death for their meals. They were allowed to bow out of the fight, but no one ever did, simply because it would mean that they were kicked out of whatever “faction” they had managed to join. This was all for the entertainment of the guards. Serina has to find a way to use the skills that she has honed for years in order to become a Grace and transfer them over to skills that she can use in the prison.
Nomi is basically in the opposite situation as Serina. She wants to rebel, in a way, and has already been taught to read by her older brother. She doesn’t know how she will monitor herself in order to act as if she fits in with the Graces, but blowing her cover could send her to the women’s jail like her sister, or a worse fate that she wouldn’t even want to think about. She will have to remember all of her sister’s lessons and pretend like she fits in with the rest of the girls who have trained for this. I thought that I would like her better at the beginning of the novel, but with the addition of a mini-love triangle and other things that have too many spoilers to mention, I ended up liking her sister’s storyline more.
This worldbuilding was incredible as certain scenes were super descriptive and each character had their own unique story. I found myself being immersed in the world once I started the book, and ended up finishing the entire novel almost in just one sitting. The way the plot flowed so smoothly just really kept me hooked. I never had issues trying to tell whose POV the story was being told in, nor did I have any issues with remembering characters.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a new fantasy novel about women trying to overcome their circumstances and reclaim their position in society.
I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and this is my voluntary review.
Overall Rating: 6 out of 5 stars