For some reason I believed this was a YA book. It’s not. It’s very adult fantasy. But I’m reviewing it anyway because I was granted a review copy.
Cat, a circus performer, is identified as a powerful magoi and kidnapped by a warlord named Griffin and his band of ultra-sexy warriors, intending to use her power as a soothsayer and truthteller to benefit the rule of his sister’s kingdom. Unfortunately Cat has other ideas, and it’s going to take everything Griffin has to convince her to stay and help.
This long-assed novel was largely a travelling story, getting Cat from Point A to Point B with plenty of complaining and escape attempts along the way. Cat is determined to the point of stubbornness that she wants nothing to do with the fine life Griffin is offering her, and even his super-sexy manly charms don’t seem to work on her. She is terrified of being hunted down by an old enemy and remains reluctant for a large part of the novel. The novel largely builds on her growing trust, respect, and even love for Griffin and his ultra-masculine band of barbarians. Griffin comes from a non-magical family and has carved a path through the magical elite to place his sister on the throne, and to keep a non-magical family royal, they are in desperate need of Cat’s help. Because Cat is the Kingmaker, and can do all kinds of magical things like turn invisible, absorb magic from other beings, and even call upon the gods who have favoured her.
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One thing that I did find really awesome in the beginning was the sexual tension between Cat and Griffin, but as the novel moved on I quickly grew cold towards it. Griffin had no respect for what Cat wanted and was always kissing her and touching her without consent, and in fact going so far so to do it when she explicitly tells him not to. Like, dude, I don’t care how sexy you are and that you’re possibly the hottest fictional character ever written about and totally remind me of my own husband, just keep your freaking hands to yourself. Equally annoying was Cat’s to-and-fro between her lust for him and her desire for freedom and pretending to hate him. I grew tired of it eventually and I also found it annoying that Cat basically only ended up consenting because the gods told her to.
I really loved the worldbuilding and how the world was based on ancient Greece with heaps of embellishments. I felt like I was walking with Cat and Griffin as they moved through well-described towns and I felt the constant heat from the summer sun irritating the crap out of Cat. This is good because the middle of the novel is largely filler – the group walks, trains for battle, faces some kind of challenge where Cat reveals more about her mysterious background, Griffin kisses her, rinse and repeat. I also found it frustrating that all the hints dropped about Cat’s true identity weren’t wrapped up at the end, either. I was waiting for that conversation between her and Griffin.
I also found the climax totally disappointing. After building up for ages about why Cat continues to say no to Griffin and then finally explaining it, there was no confrontation with Cat’s biggest enemy. I kept reading only to find the novel kind of abruptly stop when there was still 5% left (a preview of the next novel). There was no real climax, just another challenge for Cat to overcome. After all the hype and build up of Cat’s greatest enemies and the threats against Griffin’s kingdom, I was expecting a lot more.
The pacing was strong in the first third, weak in the middle third, and got a bit better in the final third of the novel. This is because after Cat’s escape attempts cease, the group simply spend a lot of time travelling, and it’s not until they reach their destination that the pace picks up again, even though things like ambushes and fighting dragons and Cat getting high and going for a naked swim happen.
I really want to rate this 5 stars for the complete sexiness of the brooding warrior men and for how awesome, if a bit overpowered, Cat was. But I can’t get over my disappointment at the ending: no climax, no answering questions. And as sexy as Griffin is, he gets a big slap across the wrist for being so grabby all the time. So as much as I’d love to re-read this book, I’d probably only re-read specific sections of it until Cat and Griffin start annoying me again.
I received this book for free from Netgalley/Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.