In the kingdom of Tildor, Lady, or Cadet, Renee de Winter is in her final year at the Academy, the training ground for the king’s most trusted soldiers, Servants of the Crown. She’s worked hard to get where she is, as she is the only female left in her class. This year one Cadet will be cut at midyear, and Renee, due to her natural female propensity towards having less upper body strength, is on the borderline. She fiercely wants to be a Servant of the Crown, partly to prove her disapproving father wrong and make something of herself and partly to serve her country and stop the political warfare. For the newly crowned teenage king is in deep water; he’s got the Family, a full bloodline of powerful and wealthy nobles who scheme to get rich, and the Vipers, a nest of bloodthirsty crooks headed by a ruthless Madam who steal children and anyone off the streets to fight in pit battles for gambling money. At the Academy, Renee’s new swordsmanship teacher, Korish Savoy, a Servant and the leader of a much decorated military company, presents a new and different challenge for Renee. As he keeps punishing her and she becomes still more determined to do well, she grows closer to Savoy and finds herself caught between her loyalty to the crown and the goal of being his Servant or saving the lives of a child and her respected teacher. Her choices throw her headlong into the deadly war between the Family, the Vipers, and the King. What is more important? Her vows or her friends?
I need to add, I’m a HUGE fan of Tamora Pierce and this book was plugged as a read-a-like. While it doesn’t quite meet the standard of Tamora Pierce’s books or Game of Thrones, it is a good read. It takes some time for the action to happen, and the worldbuilding is a little slow for the reader. Really, in my opinion, it is the relationship between Savoy and Renee that works to draw the reader in. The book does contain some violence and instances of abuse. Overall, while the main character often gets overwhelmed with all of the problems she has to face, she learns to try on her own and grows up a little in the process. She’s a little wiser, a little tougher, and more self-confident which helps her discover just how valuable she really is. Another newly published read-a-like for this book is Sara B. Larson’s Defy, of which a post will be coming out soon! (And P.S. I loved it!)