by Jessica Thorne

3.5 out of 5

A dark and addictive fantasy read for fans of Graceling and Sarah J. Maas. The life of an orphan soldier becomes entwined with that of the mysterious heir to the throne, whose very presence draws out the secret magic living inside her: a magic that breaks every law she is duty-bound to uphold…

The room is small and dark. Row upon row of jars line the shelves, each one sealed with blood-red wax. The seal’s mark is a twisted circle of briar with gleaming, gold-tipped thorns. And in each jar a flicker of forbidden magic dances… beautiful, but deadly.

Sold to the Crown in the aftermath of the Last Great War, Grace Marchant has never known her parents. Now, she trains as an elite soldier tracking down mageborn – those born with an ancient and long-outlawed magic – and destroying them if they don’t surrender their power to the Crown.

The mageborn who submit are collared, then handed over to the King’s cousin and heir: the elusive Bastien Larelwynn, Lord of Thorns, locked away in his shadowy workshop deep inside the castle. What becomes of them is hard to say – the Lord of Thorns keeps his secrets close.

Grace has always fought the voice inside her that questions whether the law is truly just – but when her closest friend is next on Bastien’s list, Grace’s loyalties are tested to the limit. Confronting Bastien – searching his strangely compelling obsidian-black eyes for answers – Grace is shocked to feel herself begin to change, to show the first signs of the wild magic she so fears.

Only the Lord of Thorns has the power to save her and the rest of the mageborn – if he doesn’t destroy them all first…

For Grace, it is an honour to serve. Alongside her team, she is trained to stop evil magic-users. A new case, and a broodingly-handsome new ally are soon to unravel everything.

I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Grace tracks down the mageborn, so they can be registered and put to useful work; or stopped if necessary. All the while, Grace keeps quiet that she once had magic, and there are traces of it still, allowing her to be super-effective at sniffing it out.
After a mageborn girl is killed, and left with scars on her hand, just like Grace's, the investigation becomes so much more important.

Bastien is the kings cousin, and 'Lord of Thorns' - the royal magic-user who traditionally cannot ever assume the throne. His cousin is sick, though, and Bastien finds himself the only (and unwilling) heir. His country fear him becoming a tyrannical king, if given the chance; and his court is full of schemers. Only Grace can be trusted.

This started off as a murder mystery, set in a city with oppressed magic. I was completely hooked by the world and the rules that the author had created.
Unfortunately, the plot quickly becomes swallowed by the romance between Bastien and Grace, which was quite sweet in places, but a bit overwhelming.
When it steers back to the mystery of the stolen magic, in the second half of the book, it was good, but not as great as the first section.
I did have an eye-rolling moment when the Bad Guys literally show off to everyone that they are Bad Guys. In front of the people investigating them, and the ones that could potentially stop them.

I do really like the dynamics between Grace and her team. They are more than just background characters, they have their parts to play, and I hope their in the rest of the series.

Overall this was a 3.5 out of 5 for me. It's a fun read, and I am intrigued as to what happens next.


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