I’ve been waiting forever (OK, two weeks) to be able to fangirl over this book with you all. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy, and I’d already preordered it because it sounded amazing, but now I’m going to need it in paperback too so I can admire it on my shelf on a daily basis.
I interviewed the author, Shana Vernon, last week, so when you’re done reading this review pop over and have a read about Shana’s other books and the upcoming sequel!
Right, let’s get into it.
Title: Of Shadow and Ember (The Heirs of Elaerys #1)
Author: Shana Vernon
Where do I start? This book had my jaw on the floor at several moments, and kept my pulse racing from start to finish, whether it was a fierce action scene, a steamy sex scene or a shocking plot twist. I read Of Shadow and Ember quicker than any other book this year, I just couldn’t put it down!
The story follows three sisters, heiresses to a desert kingdom, as they each face the very different expectations of being a princess. Calida is the eldest and heir to the throne, with all of the responsibilities that entails. Zari is the spare and lives a life of luxury and boredom while waiting to see if she’ll be needed. Arianna is the youngest and has been trained as Sentinel, the kingdom’s secret assassin who takes care of any threat under cover of darkness, so as not to spark war.
The kingdom of Kalamia is in a precarious position and in order to sign peace treaties with its neighbours, the two younger daughters are to be sent away to marry foreign heirs. But moments after Arianna – the only one trained for battle – has left, the kingdom is invaded by brutal fae from a kingdom long forgotten, the home of beasts that are responsible for the murder of Arianna’s lover years earlier and whom she’s on a warpath to seek revenge against. Except, she’s on the other side of the world with no idea what’s happening at home, while her sisters try to save their kingdom.
I loved all three of the sisters, but Arianna definitely became my favourite, with her total self-confidence and strong sense of what’s right and wrong. She also had a wicked sense of humour and was a complete badass. The story is told from several POVs, including Arianna’s new mate and one of the brutes who invaded the kingdom of Kalamia (although everything is not as it seems and there are secrets and truths that we discover through his internal monologue).
When I first saw the contents page with several names, I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to keep track of who was who, but the author was able to set the scene in each change of POV so quickly and smoothly that I never found myself struggling to keep up. Even though the story was one of the most fast-paced I’ve read in ages. It swept me away and kept me turning the pages until the very last one, desperate to know what happened next in each POV.
There wasn’t one POV that I found boring or didn’t want to see at the top of the next chapter. If I had to choose a least favourite it would probably be Calida’s, but that’s only because being kept prisoner in your own castle isn’t quite as exciting as adventuring on the high seas or being far from home in a kingdom with completely different values as you search for information on the beast that killed your lover – whilst also slowly falling for the man you’ve been sent to marry, despite his reputation as the Scourge of Vale.
The world building was fantastic, I loved discovering more about each place and the people who inhabited it, and the romance was a real slow burn in one case, and a sort of ‘fated mates’ irrepressible collision in another. The steamy scenes all took place after the 75% mark, which I really appreciated as I prefer to see the build up of tension towards a love scene, it feels more credible to me – there’s definitely no insta-love here!
I highly, HIGHLY recommend this book if you like any of the following:
- elemental magic,
- strong women (not just physically strong, these sisters are three very different types of strong),
- winged fae males,
- sexy shifters,
- arranged marriage,
- fated mates,
- sass, snark and banter,
- incredible world-building,
- excellent character development,
- a complex, fast-moving plot with lots of action,
- steamy romance with actual meaning,
- CLIFFHANGERS. Because I’m still reeling from that last chapter!!
It’s perfect for fans of Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood, or anything by Sarah J. Maas really, and Jennifer L. Armentrout. Can book two be out now please??