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I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book in order to write this review.
Shirene only became a Sentinel and counselor to the king when a traitor defected, leaving his homeland and his fellow shape-shifting winged lions for the land of the humans–the enemy. In a kingdom whose motto is “Loyalty Above All,” such an action is unforgivable. And yet, the traitor is back and the king seems to have forgiven him. Shirene can’t imagine why, until she learns of the mysterious sickness that has started to claim the kingdom’s children. The sickness came from the land of the humans and the traitor is the only one who knows of a cure, a plant on the far outskirts of the humans’ kingdom.
Shirene’s sister Rowan has been dreaming of becoming a warrior for her whole life. But now at the moment when her dream is about to come true, the plague has put those dreams on hold. Rowan is desperate to join the teams on a quest for the cure, but since she hasn’t taken her oath yet, she is ineligible. And when Shirene accidentally reveals to Rowan that the traitor is the one who told the king about the sickness and the cure, Rowan grows uneasy. This story is completely at odds with the one being told to the warriors. With her two closest friends on a quest in enemy lands and her sister almost inaccessible in the king’s inner circle, Rowan will have to decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice for her dreams and where her loyalties truly lie.
This epic fantasy is fast-paced and character-rich. Though there is a lot of (necessary) world-building up front, it doesn’t feel too dense, and the immediate hook of the plague and Shirene’s new position made me eager to turn pages. I loved the inventive magical species and the suspense that is drawn through political intrigue and social commentary. This one is for teen and adult fans of high, epic fantasy.