Prince and his fairy courtiers are staggeringly beautiful, unrelentingly cruel, and exhausted by the tedium of the centuries ― until they meet foster-siblings Josh and Ksenia. Drawn in by their vivid emotions, undying love for each other, and passion for life, Prince will stop at nothing to possess them.
First seduced and then entrapped by the fairies, Josh and Ksenia learn that the fairies’ otherworldly gifts come at a terrible price ― and they must risk everything in order to reclaim their freedom.
*** Thank you to Tor Teen for providing me with a copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review! ***
*** Trigger Warnings: Sexual Assault (Mentioned), Violence, Suicide (Mentioned), & a Potentially Triggering Relationship (incest; though the characters “technically” are not blood related) ***
Wow. Where do I even start with this book? It was beyond bizarre and not in the way where you think “Oh, this book is so unique and interesting. It’s quirky/weird, yet fun!”. No. It was just straight up weird, confusing, and left me thinking “what the hell did I just read?”. I tried, I really did but I just could not get myself to enjoy this book which is really disappointing because creepy, evil fae! This was supposed to be awesome! However, that is not what I felt I got with this book.
First of all, this book is more about Ksenia and Josh’s relationship than it is about fae so for those of you that, like myself, were looking for a good fae time. This isn’t it. The fae didn’t even really show up until around the 25% mark and even then they were scarce. However, I will say that from what little we did see of the fae they were definitely creepy, manipulative, and downright twisted. And honestly that, to me, is fae at their best because I love the creepy, twisted ones!
Normally I could still enjoy a book that focuses more on the characters and their relationships than what I expected, but Ksenia and Josh were a huge no-no for me. This is where I’d like to discuss one of the trigger warnings I left above: incest. Ksenia and Josh are foster siblings and not blood related, however, I believe it’s the thought that counts here. Their relationship just felt icky to me while reading and I did NOT get this impression from the synopsis, but maybe that’s just me. I was expecting a brother/sister relationship….not whatever this was. Ksenia states repeatedly that she thinks of Josh as a brother and tries to keep their relationship this way but Josh is persistent (and honestly a bit obsessed) until she gives in. Which was also very disturbing and not to mention extremely unhealthy.
On top of that the story felt very convoluted and confusing, there were magic bits here and fae there trying to be weaved in but overall failing. Everything felt so messy. When the magical elements first started popping up in the book I was excited, finally something was happening! But then it felt like it was just strange for the sake of being strange, nothing is ever explained or expanded on. No world building or anything, which is always disappointing when fantastical elements are introduced into a book.
I also thought the pacing was a bit off and leaned more towards the slower side and there wasn’t any action or twists to speak of. Overall it’s more of a character study which can still propel a book forward when done right but for me left something to be desired.
I will say that I did like the writing and it was really good, anything that can get me to read through this mess of a plot definitely deserves credit that’s for sure. I will give Sarah Porter’s other book “Vassa in the Night” a try and hopefully will have better luck there.
The characters are the main focus of the book and we get POVs from all three of the main characters: Ksenia, Josh, and Lexi. Ksenia and Josh are foster siblings and Lexi is one of their best friends but she doesn’t really come into play until later in the story. I will say that the characters definitely have a lot of complexity and are very flawed which made them all the more interesting and relatable.
Ksenia came from a broken family and suffered at the hands of people in previous foster homes, she found solace in her foster brother, Josh, at her new foster home. However, a lot of people do not like her because she comes off as “cold and aloof” but really it’s more of a defense mechanism. She’s described as being androgynous and also having acne, I thought I’d mention that because it’s really refreshing to have a heroine/main character who isn’t perfect and is realistic. Trust me, acne is something I can relate to! I didn’t really care for Ksenia right away but as the story continued she really grew on me and I could definitely sympathize with her character.
Josh on the other hand I didn’t really care for but he had a way of making you not outright hate him either. He’s described as being chubby and pansexual, he also dresses very flamboyantly with colored hair and plenty of glitter eyeliner, which I loved! However, Josh comes off a little strong. He has plenty of friends and quite literally everyone loves him and he’s very kind, BUT, he’s obsessed with Ksenia. He would do anything to have her and keep her, which you find out while reading. This is why I didn’t end up liking him a whole lot: he basically pushes Ksenia out of her comfort zone and I was not comfortable with that. Yes, he’s got a lot going but I don’t think it excuses pushing the boundaries that Ksenia chose to put up.
Then last but not least we have Lexi who was probably my favorite character. She’s a POC and is described as being non-white and is bisexual/pansexual (it’s not stated which she specifically identifies as). I was pleasantly surprised by her since I originally thought her to just be a background character, but she proved to be much more than that! Lexi is such a strong character and I loved how she stood up not only for herself and her choices but for others and theirs as well. There are a few scenes that really resonated with me; Lexi at one point is walking away from an argument with her boyfriend and he grabs her arm to prevent her from doing so and tells him to let go to which they both respond with:
“Will you listen to me, if I let go? Just for a minute?”
“My freedom is not something you can bargain with.”
I thought this was just such a powerful scene and I loved and respected Lexi for being strong and standing up for herself like this. There’s also another scene where she defends Ksenia when some high schoolers are making rude comments and gossiping about her. Lexi doesn’t care about Ksenia and Josh’s backgrounds or the fact that they are foster kids, she sees them as equals and treats them as such.
Overall I did enjoy the characters and how they developed throughout the story BUT it just wasn’t enough to make up for the strange, convoluted plot line.
I’ve already mentioned it a few times but I did not like the overall romance in this book. It focuses mainly on the relationship between Ksenia and Josh and it’s border line incest, in my opinion. Ksenia has put up boundaries and tells Josh she sees him as a brother and he should treat their relationship accordingly. However, Josh is constantly trying to push these boundaries and enter a romantic relationship with Ksenia to which she eventually relents. I didn’t care for that at all, if Ksenia says she wants their relationship to remain un-romantic then Josh should have respected her wishes if he truly loved and cared about her. However, the relationship was consensual. I just didn’t like how they went about getting there.
I found their relationship to overall be very unhealthy not only because of their foster situation as “siblings” under the same roof but because of how Josh pursued Ksenia. He wanted to keep her all to himself and goes to great lengths to do so, I won’t mention exactly because I want to keep the review spoiler free. Just know it definitely is not a healthy, normal relationship.
There is an F/F relationship that blossoms towards the end of the story that I liked MUCH better and it was also much healthier. I won’t mention specifics because, again, I’d like to avoid spoilers!
What I Loved:
- Creepy, twisted Fae (though I didn’t get enough of them)
- Good writing
- Complex, developed characters (mostly Lexi, who was a total badass)
- Diversity (Including POC and LGTBQ+ characters)
- F/F romance, later in the story
What I Didn’t Love:
- Bizarre, convoluted, confusing story
- Not enough Fae
- Not any world building, not enough magical/fantastical elements
- Slow paced
- Unhealthy, border line incestuous relationship
I can’t say I really recommend this but for the right reader it could be an enjoyable story, especially if you like strange, dark character studies with a little Fae mixed in. However, if you’re looking for a story strictly for the Fae there really isn’t much here. I personally could not get past the relationship the book chose to focus on.