Rating: 4.25/5 stars
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Magic
“Do you believe in True Love?” (Millennia, Ch. 26, p. 279).
As this book revolves around the premise of Princess Ivy believing she needs the strongest Prince in order to awaken her magic and turn the tides of war, it’s interesting to see what this magic ends up looking like. In this world, the Royals have magic Kisses (capital K – it’s an important distinction). They rely on their blood being as pure as possible to ensure their Kisses are as powerful as possible. However, things don’t go exactly as planned when Ivy finds herself partnered up with Prince Zachariah – who doesn’t care about his title and only wants to be called Zach. Zach believes these Kisses are dangerous and does everything he can think of in order to prevent Ivy from using her magic.
To be perfectly honest, the whole Royal system didn’t make a lick of sense to me. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention when the bloodline and breeding thing was explained, but I really didn’t understand the specifics that went into determining how pure a person’s bloodline was. Even more than that, how can there be multiple purebred Royals from a kingdom when the Royals are breeding with the citizens yet still consider these purebreds to not be too closely related? I don’t know, there just seemed to be too many Royals to me, even knowing that the reproduction of Royals was of the utmost importance to them and they had big families. Did the kingdoms interbreed and share breeding stats to ensure a certain stage of familial removal? (Okay, that’s as far as my brain wants to think about these things…)
Not only was this an easy read to get through, the ending held up to the rest of the story. It didn’t feel rushed and all major plot points had been touched on at least briefly. As a couple of the stories I’ve devoured lately have not done the best job at this, instead having rushed endings and/or leaving too many threads of the plot unfulfilled, I was excited to see that this ending left me extremely satisfied. This doesn’t mean it was a perfect “fairy tale ending”. No, the world shows that it’s still not fully recovered from events that started many years prior to the start of this story. But it properly showed that things are on the upswing – and that’s what I want from a standalone fantasy at least.
Overall, I’d recommend giving this book a try if you’re looking for a fast paced YA fantasy and romance story. I loved the characters and their relationships, the way they seemed to have real emotions and conflicts, and even the way they could be obtuse about things that seem so clear cut in the real world. I flew through this story, finishing it in under 24 hours – and that includes the 5 hours I slept plus a full 8 hour work day. If I’m being honest, I smiled through most of the story, too.
HOWEVER, I must warn you that if you cannot read about miscarriages this book won’t hit you the right way. I know this is a sensitive topic to many, so I want you to know going into things that this topic is brought up. There are no graphic scenes and the talk about the subject does not take a huge chunk of the book, but even the little information that is in this book can set some people off. Please be careful if this topic is difficult for you to read about.
“I knew you were enough. I met you, and you were beautiful with your freckles and talk about strawberries. Then you were demanding that we should be partners and, even when I told you no, you showed up on the battlefield. You were fierce and strong and brave, and I admired you.” (Zach, Ch. 25, p. 268).
I love the fact that the premise of this book is the fact that love is the most powerful magic of all. And that the perversion of this magic, a perversion of love, would be the Kiss that royals have come to use – love turned into magic, “help” that ends up hurting.
While as the reader you go into the story knowing that Ivy and Zach are going to fall in love – it is a romance and a plot about True Love being the ultimate magic, after all – the way they do it felt pretty organic. They start of by not understanding each other, and at times it seemed as if they couldn’t stand the other one. Heck, they both were willing to go to slay the Sable Dragon alone at one point or another. Yet we get hints pretty early on that they’re falling in love with each other. Just look at Zach’s selfless risking of his own life to save Ivy. Sure, they disagreed on Kisses for most of the book, but a person isn’t going to change their entire belief system overnight.
The fact that these Kisses are actually the result of a curse – the Hydra Curse – cast by the very person the Legion aims to emulate was a twist I didn’t see coming right away. I thought maybe Myriana had been the one to bring her heir to the goblins, not that she herself had turned into the Evil Queen. Sure it was Myriana’s heart and emotions that were transformed into pure evil and not her physical body, but that just makes the stained glass window in the library that much more important. It showed the truth – that Myriana and the Evil Queen were one and the same, two sides of the same coin, and together they formed a whole.
Ivy’s experience of Myriana’s past did a fantastic job at uncovering the truth and motivations behind the Evil Queen. It was Myriana’s broken heart, her inability to live knowing that her own husband – her True Love – was more obsessed with producing heirs than actually caring for the person he was supposed to love. Adding to that the heartbreak of being unable to carry to term, I can almost understand Myriana’s decision to cut her heart out. Almost, but not quite – and that’s knowing that I’m lucky enough to never have experienced a miscarriage. I know some women go to extremes after a single miscarriage, so I can’t even imagine the heartbreak and devastation that comes along with multiple miscarriages and feeling the pressure to keep trying, even knowing it’s not going to happen.
Ivy getting to see the true history, the one lost to time and never understood in the first place, was a really interesting twist to me. I kind of half expected to find out the truth and to have it be closer to the Romantica version of the story than the Legion version. After all, I know the truth lies somewhere between the two sides and since Ivy was the one whose mind needed to be changed I just figured that it’d be closer to the version of the story she didn’t believe. Yes, the truth is closer to the Romantica version than the Legion version, but it’s so drastically different from both versions that I almost don’t think this counts.
I will applaud the Romanticas and their version of history for still believing in True Love even though society deemed it unimportant, though. Also their ability to figure out that the Royal Kisses were actually making the war worse as opposed to better. Neither group knew about the Hydra Curse, but the Romanticas still saw clues and managed to piece them together. The Legion might have had more resources, but they were blind to any clues that didn’t fit into their reality of things.
Changing society’s mind about True Love is going to be a long, slow change. Thankfully, Ivy and Zach are more than happy to work with both Legion society and the Romanticas in order to better their world and win the war. Millennia was definitely willing to help be part of the first way, proving that Love existed and marriage wasn’t archaic. And Zach was definitely building up the courage to ask Ivy for her hand in marriage when the story ended. Which, might I add, was an adorable scene.
If you’ve read Kiss of the Royal, what were your thoughs? Did you understand the Royals relations to each other more than I did?