Author: Julie C. Dao
Series: Rise of the Empress companion
Genre: YA fantasy
Release Date: November 5th, 2019
Publisher: Philomel Books
Source: ARC one on Bookish First which did not influence my opinion
My rating: 4 stars
From the acclaimed author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns comes a fantastical new tale of darkness and love, in which magical bonds are stronger than blood.
Will love break the spell? After cruelly rejecting Bao, the poor physician's apprentice who loves her, Lan, a wealthy nobleman's daughter, regrets her actions. So when she finds Bao's prized flute floating in his boat near her house, she takes it into her care, not knowing that his soul has been trapped inside it by an evil witch, who cursed Bao, telling him that only love will set him free. Though Bao now despises her, Lan vows to make amends and help break the spell.
Together, the two travel across the continent, finding themselves in the presence of greatness in the forms of the Great Forest's Empress Jade and Commander Wei. They journey with Wei, getting tangled in the webs of war, blood magic, and romance along the way. Will Lan and Bao begin to break the spell that's been placed upon them? Or will they be doomed to live out their lives with black magic running through their veins?
I really enjoyed this story of love and magic. There was a lot I didn't necessarily see coming from the beginning. Of course it is always a story-line that the orphan who isn't good enough for the princess ends up actually being royalty in some way, but it's nice that the "princess" in this story was really a nice person, and her one time of lashing out and acting above someone had to do with some really heartbreaking news she'd received at that time, from him. The story also showed how a girl had to deal with the prejudices of the males, not only our main character, but even other warriors and young women trying to do what they wanted. While I haven't read any of the other books by this author that are part of this series, it wasn't needed in order to understand and enjoy this story. I am definitely interested in reading other books in the series now, and will be sure to recommend it to my students at my library, as well as customers at the bookstore where I work.