This book. Oh my gosh this book. I don’t know if it’s just because I had to take a reading break to move and this is my first book in 2-3 weeks or what, but this is my first 5 star read of 2021! It hit every single one of my favorite tropes, and the character’s were soooo fun to read. I went in knowing its a stand alone and thinking that was a good thing because I don’t have time to get into a series right now, but now I am so heartbroken that I won’t get to know about the rest of Alessandra’s life. I mean from the very first sentence (which is quoted above) you are drawn into this character’s life and she is such a complicated and interesting character. This book is often described as a Slytherin romance- I wasn’t sure what I was going to make of that being a Ravenclaw, and possibly the one HP fan who doesn’t like Draco Malfoy but was pleasantly surprised when I absolutely loved the characters.
Spoiler free synopsis!
Alessandra is a cunning, ambitious young woman who takes what she want’s out of life. She is biding her time until her sister marries and she is free to finally begin the process of finding a husband for herself. Not because she believes in love- that’s silly. Because she wants power, and the only way to find power as a woman is to marry into it. She has her sights set on the new young King of their nation- an elusive man only known as the Shadow King. He is said to show absolutely no interest in the young ladies paraded before him. Alessandra knows she has it in her to seduce him, make him fall in love with her, and then once they are married, murder him and become Queen in her own right. After all, she has been practicing the art of seduction on the young men she chooses to warm her bed at night, and every single one of them has ended up proposing to her. She of course has to then let them down- she has greater things ahead then marrying anybody but a King, and she absolutely has no room for love in her life. Not after the only boy she ever loved broke her heart. Alessandra attends the King’s court to meet him, and through her sly flirtation with him she catches his eye. The King asks Alessandra to stay at court, and after a few meetings he explains his plan- he would like to tell everyone he is courting Alessandra because his council pesters him about finding a wife so much that he can’t concentrate on his duties, not to mention his mission to find out who murdered his parents the year before. Alessandra agrees because she hopes by spending more time pretending to court with the King, that he will actually fall in love with her, and also because she recognizes a fellow lonely soul in the King and against her ambitious instincts wants to help him. After a few bumps in the road due to miscommunication and the King’s busy schedule, the pair grow closer. Alessandra can’t help but notice that even though she is a master at putting up a facade that makes everyone around her love her and therefore easy to manipulate, she can’t help but be honest and be herself with the King. And to her surprise, despite finding out how ambitious, dark, and clever Alessandra is the King seems to genuinely like her and have fun hanging out with her. However, there’s a catch to their growing relationship, the King has “Shadow” powers. This means he is able to go from being solid to being basically a ghost at any given moment. This “ghost” form (my word for it not his) is extremely useful, no one can harm him, he is able to walk through wall’s, etc., and he is able to heal himself. The catch is that once he physically touches someone else’s skin he is no longer able to become a “ghost” in their presence. So if Alessandra and he were to act on any of their growing love for each other, he would become extremely vulnerable in her presence. And to complicate matters, there are multiple attempts on the King’s life during her stay there, somebody definitely wants to kill him. Alessandra and him team up to try to figure out who wants the king to die before it’s too late.
Alessandra is such a great character because she is simultaneously ambitious and cunning (AKA slytherin) while still being warm and compassionate (unless you cross her). She is absolutely ruthless and yes somehow still authentically a kind person. It shouldn’t work but for this character it does and makes her one of my favorite characters of all time. She doesn’t just want to be Queen for the sake of being Queen, she wants to be Queen because she knows that she could do so much good in the position. She has these great feminist ideas, she wants to help change the kingdom to give Women more power because currently there are so many sexist laws in place in this kingdom. She also has great character growth, in the beginning of the novel she is against the idea of falling in love ever again, and just uses men for pleasure. However, by the end of the novel she realizes how amazing love is, and she would give anything to save the love of her life.
Kallias (AKA the Shadow King)
He is such a great fit for Alessandra because he is also absolutely ruthless, while still being an overall good person with good motives. They both have very dark sides, and neither of them flinch away from the other person when those dark sides are revealed. He starts off so broody and mysterious, but once Alessandra defrosts him a little bit we learn he is really just so lonely.
Plot/ World Building
This is a book I only had to put down to slow myself down! When I get really into a book I literally have to stop my self or I read too fast and miss details. This is one of those books! I felt that the plot was well placed, there are about 5 parts in this novel that weave seamlessly together.
There was not a whole lot of world building in this novel, I don’t even think I know what the name of the Kingdom is! All we really know is that Kallias has conquered 6 kingdoms in his year on the throne, and we find out a little backstory on Kallias’s shadow powers. It didn’t really bother me because we didn’t really need to know much about the kingdom.
Likes versus dislikes
- This book is SO sex positive! I love this new movement of sex positivity, and Alessandra is a character who is very sexual and completely unashamed of it. She actively fights for other women to feel the same way as her.
- Alessandra and Kallias are both morally grey and they stay that way! People don’t have to become “good” to fall in love or be good people. They both do “bad” things to either stay in power or on behalf of their loved ones and its so refreshing that falling in love doesn’t make either of them suddenly saints.
- The romance between the two main characters was sooo beautiful and fun to read, with the slow burn and suspense added in that made you just want to catch on fire.
- The imagery in this book is like right off of my pinterest board. It’s dark academia vibes with flowers and balls and it made me want to jump into the page.
- The mystery element was mostly predictable, with one plot twist i honestly would’ve never seen coming.
- Needs a sequel (:
So there you have it! My first 5 star review! Please do yourself a favor right now and go read this book! I wish I could read it for the first time again right now.