Thank you to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Where Nirrim lives, crime abounds, a harsh tribunal rules, and society’s pleasures are reserved for the High Kith. Life in the Ward is grim and punishing. People of her low status are forbidden from sampling sweets or wearing colours. You either follow the rules, or pay a tithe and suffer the consequences.
Nirrim keeps her head down, and a dangerous secret close to her chest.
But then she encounters is, a rakish traveller from far away, who whispers rumours that the High Kith possess magic. Sid tempts Nirrim to seek that magic for herself. But to do that, Nirrim must surrender her old life. She must place her trust in this sly stranger who asks, above all, not to be trusted.
I haven’t read The Winner’s Trilogy so I went into this world and author completely blind. It started as a typical dystopian fantasy story which reminded me a lot of Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. However, this story was, in my opinion, executed in a more exciting and interesting way with an incredible twist at the end that I didn’t see coming at all!
This story examines the complicated feelings that are involved in an abusive relationship where the victim loves the abuser. This was done sensitively and did not romanticise or diminish any part of the process of escaping that environment. The story also included a problematic romantic relationship which included some emotional abuse and manipulation. There is a lot of gaslighting and manipulation throughout the book which was quite uncomfortable, but through her adventure, Nirrim starts to recognise all that she is told isn’t quite true. Nirrim realises her own self-worth and breaks away from these relationships, which is empowering to see!
The LGBT+ relationship has the perfect balance of sweet, sexy and just plain fun. I loved the chemistry and banter, making it feel much more natural than some relationships in stories. I was a little disappointed with how it was left, but hopefully this leaves the next book open to a resolution!
The world building is great – it is told from a first person perspective, so each scene change is described vividly and beautifully, allowing us to feel everything Nirrim feels as she moves through the world. We get to witness her start to question what she has always known and loved, and the complex emotions that leads to.
Overall, this book is dark, twisty, beautiful and rich with detail. The plot twist and subsequent cliffhanger at the end sets up the second book and I can’t wait to see where it leads! I gave this book 4 stars as it was exciting, fun and brought a new life to similar stories.