Publisher/date: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (February 4, 2020)
Genre: YA Fantasy
"'Do the most good' is their favorite saying. The most good. I like that because it allows for, well, some of the not-so-good too. Sometimes a bit of that is necessary."
Shadow is the Princess Lilac in hiding. A plot to kill she and her mother has existed since she was born, and the Queen has kept her in hiding with the guild formed to protect her line; only appearing occasionally before the people. But raising her away from the palace has had unforeseen consequences. Mainly, a girl who does not want to be a primped up princess, but a warrior, an assassin for the guild.
Caledon is the Queen's assassin. Bound by a blood vow made by his father, he carries on his duty without hope for another life until he can find the magical scrolls his vow binds him to find. He's vowed to love no one, to have no children to pass the blood vow to.
Caledon has murdered a Prince, but with good reason. Prince Alast was a spy for the group bound to kill the queen and princess. But to hide his identity, the Queen must send him to prison and then break him out. When Shadow discovers this injustice, she goes to break him out herself, and ask to be his apprentice.
I selected this ARC with my points from Bookish First. It's the first in the series, and I had high hopes based on the preview I was given when I selected the book. And the story is interesting. But I had some issues.
Everything about the relationship between Caledon and Shadow seems contrived. She comes to him and breaks him out of prison in a very sloppy attempt at espionage, wanting to become his apprentice. He was about to break himself out when she finally found him, and so is reluctant to give her much credit for the risks she's taken. And TBH, its understandable. Especially since she keeps ignoring all of his advice and jumping into things her own way. If you're someone's apprentice, isn't the point to learn from them? She doesn't really seem to want to do that, she only seems to want escape from the life that's been chosen for her.
They bicker constantly, and it's pretty apparent that their personalities do not jive. And then this crush starts, and it's completely out of left field and based solely on looks, shallow in the extreme and irritating as well. Yet another "she's pretty so I love her despite herself" trope.
In addition, Caledon is a trained assassin. And yet he's constantly being distracted by this girl. I wouldn't mind it if it was a little, something he was trying to fight in order to do his job, but this guy throws caution to the wind and spends more time trying to make her jealous than focusing on the dire circumstances they've put themselves in. They both even get drunk a couple of times. Very anti-spy-like behavior. He's literally teaching her nothing.
And lastly, this guy is again a freaking SPY, and yet he doesn't recognize his own damn princess? I don't care that he's only seen her twice, the second he realizes she's a girl he should have known. There is also another instance of a person he "should recognize" but doesn't, much to their detriment. Really, a little research on things a spy should be able to do/know would have gone a long way to make this book more believable.
I wanted to like this one. There was a big plot twist that I had suspicion of but wasn't confirmed until the end, and that was one of the only redeeming qualities of this book. (Although Shadow's easy forgiveness pissed me off, I really wanted a new villain to despise.)
2 stars, this book could have been SO much more.