I received this book for free from Publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Kingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon Thomas
Series: A Wicked Thing #2
Published by HarperTeen on February 23rd, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Asleep for a hundred years, awoken by a kiss, Aurora’s life was supposed to be a fairytale. But since discovering that loyalty to the crown and loyalty to her country are two very different things, Aurora knows she can only dream of happily ever after. Once the enchanted princess, savior of her people, she is now branded a traitor.
Aurora is determined to free her home from the king’s tyrannical rule, even if it means traveling across the sea to the kingdom of the handsome and devious Prince Finnegan—someone who seems to know far more about her magic than he should. However, Finnegan’s kingdom has perils of its own, and any help he gives Aurora will come at a price.
As Aurora and Finnegan work together to harness her power—something so fiery and dangerous that is as likely to destroy those close to Aurora as it is to save them—she begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding the curse that was placed on her over a century before…and uncover the truth about the destiny she was always meant to fulfill.
Brimming with captivating fantasy and life-threatening danger, the sequel to A Wicked Thing takes Sleeping Beauty on an adventure unlike any she’s ever had before.
If we haven’t spoken in a year, you may not have noticed the intense love I’ve been consistently proclaiming for A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas. But boy. I love that book. It’s so thoughtful and unique – and though there wasn’t a lot of action, I was completely swept up in the main character and her voice. Well now it’s finally here: the sequel. And it was definitely enjoyable.
The end of A Wicked Thing left me with great hopes for the next phase of the story: with Aurora free from the restraints of the royal family and her magic quickly growing more potent and noticeable, Kingdom of Ashes should be the place where shit gets real. Where Aurora becomes the magic wielding badass we all know she is, deep down inside. And we kind of got there. If you were hoping for magic, rest assured this book delivers it. Aurora fights a real battle to master and understand her magic and its origins. She travels to unknown lands and bonds with DRAGONS. Yes, there be magic here.
But the development… was less so. Which kind of disappointed me. I loved A Wicked Thing so much because I felt like I thoroughly understood Aurora’s character. I thought this section, where she has more agency and magical power, would take care to develop that slowly but surely and once again sweep me up in her personal journey. But it wasn’t exactly like that. Though Aurora definitely has some difficulties getting a hold on her power, the sections where she trains and describes what her magic feels like were… a bit lax. Not riddled with inaccuracies or far-fetched nonsense, but just not as beautiful and sweeping as it could have been – mostly, I think, because of the writing. This kept the novel at a more average level for me – particularly because I expected so much more.
Where did I get my kicks? Aurora and Finnegan. I know, I was mostly Team Aurora in A Wicked Thing but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t SO EXCITED by the potential of Finnegan. And there were feels. And ships did sail. And life was glorious. Finnegan is just smart, fun, a little mischievous, and dynamic. And though the foundation was kind of there in book 1, it’s still a slow burn here in book 2. Maybe even too slow – because I don’t really feel like I got enough swoons to pay-off that long investment. (I reached “NOW KISS” levels, oh yes I did.) In that sense, the end almost kind of fizzled out a little on the shippy feels. But I do like the two together so damn much.
Kingdom of Ashes is, like its predecessor, still very much about the political machinations in this fantasy world. Though away from King John, Aurora is still discovering how the balance of power works, how respected royals behave, how nations work together and against each other. She also fights an internal battle about wanting to save her people but also wanting her freedom – because at this point, what does she really owe them? I did get some Game of Thrones tingles again, because Aurora still reminds me of Sansa. And that kind of fantasy will always interest me. It may not be my favorite in the long run – but it’s so interesting to think about.
Ultimately it’s kind of a mixed bag for me with Kingdom of Ashes. Aurora quite realistically grows into her magic (though the writing could have been better), she has more agency and stands up for her people (with understandable hesitance given how they’ve treated her), and there is some nice romance (though it could have done with a dash more spiciness). I grew to love some secondary characters (Nettle and Finnegan), but the antagonist was still a flat bad guy who you can’t believe still has loyal subjects. The love square situation is resolved with skill and respect, there are some shocking twists, and the ending is largely satisfying.
But it did lack a certain spark overall which makes me think that if you didn’t like the first book – this one’s not for you. It almost like this book tried to do too much, by fitting just as much character development as the first book in with romantic development, a ton more world building, an almost-too-rich backstory, and an eventual climax with an invading army, a battle, and a satisfying end. Maybe, in this rare case, this series would have benefited from having one more book.