If you’re looking for a romantic fantasy set in a magical world based in Vietnam and you want it to be short, then this is the book for you. For a small book, it definitely packed a punch.
Quiet, thoughtful princess Thanh was sent away as a hostage to the powerful faraway country of Ephteria as a child. Now she’s returned to her mother’s imperial court, haunted not only by memories of her first romance, but by worrying magical echoes of a fire that devastated Ephteria’s royal palace.
Thanh’s new role as a diplomat places her once again in the path of her first love, the powerful and magnetic Eldris of Ephteria, who knows exactly what she wants: romance from Thanh and much more from Thanh’s home. Eldris won’t take no for an answer, on either front. But the fire that burned down one palace is tempting Thanh with the possibility of making her own dangerous decisions.
Can Thanh find the freedom to shape her country’s fate—and her own?
This was such a whirlwind of a book and truly, I mean that. The book was less than 100 pages and while it’ll sweep you off your feet with its romance, you’ll also finish reading this book in one sitting. The story drops you in immediately providing information through Thanh’s perspective on what happened to her for the past few years; the court she was told to live in, the romance she had with Eldris, and the terrible fire that caused her mental and emotional harm.
In this new world, she’s her mother’s diplomat forced not only to work with the kingdom she was hostage to, but also with her first love. It felt like this story focused more on the romance than the fantasy and I wasn’t mad about it. I assumed the story would be more about the fantasy, but romance never hurts. Thanh’s relationship with Eldris seemed both desirable but also forbidden since Thanh’s position in Eldris’ court was as a hostage.
It’s also about the mental and emotional struggle of surviving a massive fire. Thanh’s survival guilt is obvious as she remembers a young servant she helped to escape the palace only to lose her before it was too late. It was definitely a huge part of the story as she finds out more about the servant she held hands with and the surprise behind that story was totally different than I imagined.
While I really loved this story, there’s always pitfalls when it comes to a novella. One mainly is that I want to see this world expanded with much deeper lore and worldbuilding and watch the romance between two main characters really come to life. I really loved the backstory for Thanh, the romance between her and Eldris, the mysterious person she meets during the fire, and the surprise behind her story. I think this story could easily transition to a 500-page fantasy romance filled with indecision about her romance, powerful magic, and so much growth for Thanh. Because even though this book is a novella, you see Thanh go from being a quiet observer to a vocal decision maker. It was truly an interesting story and would definitely make for a bigger tale.
Overall, this is a great romantic fantasy that’s super short to read and easy to follow. I just wish there was more.