The kingdom of Antion is under a heavy hand. They’re at war with neighboring kingdom Blevon, and its citizens are terrorized. Everyone lives in fear of the king and the Blevonese. For those children who are left parentless, the kingdom takes them and funnels them into two paths—the females, no matter their age, go to the breeding houses, and the males are put into the army. Alexa Hollen and her twin brother Marcel have just been orphaned, as a Blevonese sorcerer sets fire to their village. Refusing to go to the horrors of the breeding house, where she would be treated like livestock to produce as many babies as possible for the country, Alexa chops off her hair and pretends to be a boy, joining her brother as candidates for the guard. A few years later, Alexa, now Alex, is a member of Prince Damian’s royal guard. Alex is well-known as the best swordsman in the guard and liked by her comrades, and that almost makes guarding a spoiled and arrogant prince bearable. But when an intruder breaks into the palace and kills her brother, Marcel, Alex is devastated. To comfort her, their friend and fellow guard Rylan confesses he’s known she was Alexa for years and that he loves her. As all this happens, Alex is assigned to guard the prince’s room during the night for his added protection. Her whole world is thrown into confusion. With her grief and her fear, surprises haven’t stopped for Alex, as during the night, the prince tries to become her friend and asks her for her trust and loyalty. She gives it relunctantly, and almost before she has much time to process anything, Prince Damian, Rylan, and Alexa are abducted by the Blevonese and taken as captives. Turns out, Prince Damian has also known for awhile about Alexa and has feelings for her. The kidnapping has them all confronting their feelings, their promises, and their deepest desires. For a girl with everything to lose, any choice seems treacherous, but her life isn’t the only one at stake. It’s their entire country.
Despite many reviewers who have compared this to their expectations of Disney’s Mulan story, it’s obvious they had not read Tamora Pierce’s Alanna series and other books about Tortall because that’s more what this book resembles. While it definitely isn’t Mulan, it also isn’t closely related to Pierce’s stories. It has its own charater and charm. Now, if you hate love triangles, maybe you should just skip this. This is another very critiqued theme, but honestly, when you’re a girl who’s about to be sent to a filthy place, raped repeatedly and forced to bear children only to have them be forced into the same life that you lead, I’m pretty sure you’d pretend you were a boy too. And when you’ve acted like a boy for like eight years or more, you probably find it hard to be a girl, even in private. You respond and act entirely like a boy, so acting like a girl and having interactions as a girl is bound to be overwhelming and hard to navigate! Essentially, she’s still that young girl because she’s been emotionally maturing as a boy. She hasn’t had the chance to interact with boys and love like a girl would have. Honestly, I really liked Alexa and her courage and determination. I didn’t mind the love triangle, because both boys form attachments to her for different but perfectly legit reasons. I can’t wait for the second book!
Possibly some the whole breeding houses and everything relating to that would make this inappropriate for some younger readers. Especially when they mention a six year old girl going into the breeding house…just to live for now, but to be *grimace* “useful” when she comes of age.