I was super excited to read this one because EJ Mellow is a friend of mine. I’d never read any of her work before, but after hearing she wrote a dark romantic fantasy, I knew I had to get my hands on it and check it out. What we got is a wonderful new story for a new series from her and I can’t wait for the next book!
The Thief Kingdom is a place hidden within the world of Aadlior. Many whisper of its existence, but few have found this place, where magic and pleasure abound. There, the mysterious Thief King reigns supreme with the help of the Mousai, a trio of revered and feared sorceresses.
Larkyra Bassette may be the youngest of the Mousai, but when she sings her voice has the power to slay monsters. When it’s discovered the Duke of Lachlan is siphoning a poisonous drug from the Thief Kingdom and using it to abuse his tenants, Larkyra is offered her first solo mission to stop the duke. Eager to prove herself, Larkyra accepts by posing as the duke’s potential bride. But her plans grow complicated when she finds herself drawn to Lord Darius Mekenna, Lachlan’s rightful heir. Soon she suspects Darius has his own motivations for ridding Lachlan of the corrupt duke. Larkyra and Darius must learn to trust each other if there is to be any hope of saving the people of Lachlan—and themselves.
Welcome to the world of Aadilor, where lords and ladies can be murderers and thieves, and the most alluring notes are often the deadliest. Dare to listen?
CW: family/domestic abuse, self harm, gore and blood, implied drug abuse
Ok, I want to first start off by saying that I really liked this book. It wasn’t perfect. There were a few nagging things that I keep thinking about, but overall, I thought it was good and a great start to a new fantasy series world.
I absolutely loved the characters and I feel like this book was focused more on these characters and their development than the other elements. You can tell a lot of thought went into developing these characters and making them feel realistic. Each of them were so complex with their own successes and failures. Watching Darius’s secrets unfold through the eyes of Larkya, you can tell that she’s way more than just a thief or a spy. She has a caring side, which made it way more interesting to follow her and see what she thinks. I also loved that Darius was a complicated mess as well. In fact, everyone was so flawed that it made the story feel more realistic. I love it when characters are more like real people than caricatures. I even liked the Duke’s reasoning for being the way he is (despite not really enjoying how that ending came together).
I was also really into the adventures Larkya went on from the very beginning where she’s going without her magic for a month to traveling to a small island and collecting herbs for an elixir. The adventures Larkya went on were some of my favorite parts and it does double duty to build the world for you. I really loved the world EJ’s created here especially this dichotomy between the real world and the thief’s world. The Thief Kingdom was definitely where my interest lied especially when Larkya was walking through it with Darius. All the little bits of information that’s shared about this world, the magic within it, and who rules this place definitely kept my attention the most.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending mostly because the entire book read like a slow burn right up until the end. And then the end happened, and I was just confused. Everything else seemed to get such care, but it felt like EJ Mellow took her time to write the beginning and then rushed the ending. I wasn’t happy with the way things turned out and how all the big reveals came about. It felt too easy and not at all along the lines of this epic tale of deception, lies, and distrust. I wanted there to be some big fight and some lessons learned the hard way, but it fell short of that.
It also ended with a fairly nice bow wrapped around it. Thinking this was gonig to be a fantasy series, I thought the ending would leave you with something for the next book. That’s fine that it didn’t and that the series is following a more romance series cadence (each book exploring another character’s perspective), so it did throw me a little that it wrapped up all at once.
The other thing I wasn’t a big fan of was the romance; or lack there of. While I’m new to the whole fantasy romance genre, I was expecting there to be a bit more tension, a bit more development of the romance between Darius and Larkyra. It seemed more like stolen glances than actual relationship building and then they were declaring their love for each other. I did like how the romance was written in like Larkyra slowly caring about him and vice versa. I also really liked how they fought their emotions for each other because they couldn’t fully trust each other with something like their heart. But again, I wanted it to be a bit more obvious and the attraction starting from the beginning and deeply interwoven into the story. I wouldn’t call this a fantasy romance, but a fantasy book with a romantic storyline in it.
Overall, this was a solid beginning to a new series. I already saw that the second book’s cover has been revealed and who the book will be about. I can’t wait to dive into that one as well.
I received a free copy of this book from the author for review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.