**This e-ARC was provided through NetGalley for reviewing purposes!**
What it's about:
Lady Amalia Cornaro never expected to come home from a book-buying run as a newly-minted Falconer, an elite branch of the military trained to control the magical abilities of mage-marked "Falcons", but she has suddenly found herself the unwanted warden of Zaira, a powerful fire mage. When her ambitious mother decides to use this newfound power to the advantage of the Cornaro family, Amalia is suddenly thrown into much more of the court intrigue than she would have been as "just the Cornaro heir." Rumors have been spreading in the nearby city of Ardence of a Shadow Gentry, and when a group of mage-marked aristocratic children are kidnapped, it's up to Amalia, an unwilling Zaira, and Marcello, a Falcon officer, to discover what game is afoot and unmask the harbingers of war between the two kingdoms!
What I thought:
I'm not going to lie...the first half of this book dragged a little for me. I liked the characters right away, but during the first half of the book there were a LOT of little details that didn't always seem necessary for the reader to know all at once. This did aid in the worldbuilding and the character development, as well as prepared the reader for all of the stuff going on behind the scenes, but for me it was just a bit of information overload.
I totally loved the three main characters, Amalia, Zaira, and Marcello. The character development in this book was fantastic, and we got to see the characters grow and change throughout the story. Amalia and Marcello had some great chemistry, and Amalia's relationship with Zaira was great as well.
The magic system was so cool (albeit not necessarily fair to the characters), and I loved how it was treated differently in the two drastically different societies we glimpsed in this story.
The politics in the story were also surprisingly interesting to me! Normally I'm not all about the "political court intrigue" heavy novels, but I enjoyed everything happening here. Prince Ruven was a great character, and the politicians dealing with Ardence and Raverra were really interesting, including the members of Amalia's own family.
The ending wrapped up nicely for this part of the story while also hinting at more to come, so I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next to these characters!
If you like well-done worldbuilding and lots of court intrigue, definitely give this one a try!
Rating: 3.75 stars.