In a world of magic, nothing is ever as it seems.
In the kingdom of Axaria, a darkness rises.
Some call it a monster, laying waste to the villagers and their homes.
Some say it is an invulnerable demon summoned from the deepest abysses of the Immortal Realm.
Many soldiers from the royal guard are sent out to hunt it down.
Not one has ever returned.
When Asterin Faelenhart, princess of Axaria and heir to the throne, discovers that she may hold the key to defeating the mysterious demon terrorizing her kingdom, she vows not to rest until the beast is slain. With the help of her friends and the powers she wields — though has yet to fully understand — Asterin sets out to complete a single task. The task that countless trained soldiers have failed. To kill it.
But as they hunt for the demon, they unearth a plot to assassinate the princess herself instead. Asterin and her friends begin to wonder how much of their lives has been lies, especially when they realize that the center of the web of deceit might very well be themselves. With no one else to turn to, they are forced to decide just how much they are willing to sacrifice to protect the only world they have ever known.
That is, of course, if the demon doesn’t get to them first. (taken from Amazon)
First of all, I’m a fan of strong female characters and this book is strong in that aspect. The main character, Asterin is a great example of that. She’s not your typical princess: she’s feisty and, as a certain someone likes to point out, she can be a bit of a brat. She has the skills to back up her attitude, though. A skilled fighter, she is also quite capable in this world’s version of magic. She’s also not content to let other people fight battles she knows she’s suited for, and goes off in search of the demon who’s leaving death in its wake.
There’s a small cast of characters that goes along with her, each an addition to the team in their own way. I think my favorite was Orion, Asterin’s bodyguard and friend. He taught her to fight, among other things, didn’t underestimate her, and was just a fun character all around.
The book is much less straightforward than the reader is originally led to believe, something I really enjoyed. I like stories that have intrigue and surprises, and this book delivers. Plus, there’s the journey taken, and I love books where the heroes see much of the fantasy world.
One small bone to pick is that the relationship between Asterin and Quinlan was annoying. Not enough to ruin the book by any stretch of the imagination, but it just kind of irked me. Also, every time I read “affinity stone”, I immediately thought “infinity stone” of the Marvel Universe (oops; I guess those movies really got inside my head), but that last is an issue I had, mentioned only because I had to laugh at myself a little.
It turns out Coco Ma was just fifteen when she finished writing this book: you go, girl! This is a wonderful debut, and she definitely is a fresh new voice in the YA fantasy genre.