This was a lovely read! I read the book for the DTS readathon, and yet at first I was skeptical to continue on with book 2 but I’ve just checked the reviews and it was higher than the first so maybeeee book 2 would surprise me in a good way 👀
Description Summary | A beautiful story encompassed with Bolivian culture and politics that falls flat with story progression but is elevated with the author’s pleasant writing style and character dynamics.
Book Summary | (Skip to Review)
Ximena has been a decoy for 10 years. 10 years since the Llacsans invaded La Ciudad and their leader Atoc has crowned himself king. 10 years since the Illustrian royals were killed off and the last remaining condesa fled for her life. 10 years since both Ximena and the true condensa Catalina lost both of their parents.
Now King Atoc offers an arrangement, a marriage proposal to the exiled condesa in return for the freedom of Illustrian prisoners being kept in the dungeons. Anyhow, the condensa wouldn’t have much choice. The king would wipe out her fortress easily, especially since he has the silver bracelet with the powerful and magical gem: The Estrella.
Ximena is placed in a deadly game of espionage and secrecy when she goes into the palace as the true condesa. There she meets Rumi, a healer and cousin to the king. Rumi is a devout loyal to the king who can’t stand the condesa. Ximena’s feelings are all but mutual.
Soon however, the more time Ximena spends time in the castle and near the people whom she always considered her “enemies” the more that she rethinks the entire history of the Inkasisa. Revelations come up which forces her to look at her own system in a new light. But that would mean the ultimate betrayal: turning her back on her closest companion and friend as well as the heir to the Illustrian throne: Catalina.
With the notorious rebel El Lobo on the loose wrecking havoc and mayhem where he goes, Ximena is weary of his intentions: he claims he wants the best for all sides. But can Ximena trust him?
The silver lining between foe and friend blurs, as the right and wrong. Hope rests on Ximena to stop yet another bloody war that would be the death of many people.
This was tricky. On one side I loved how the story ended and the original concept behind it; I’ve never read a fantasy where the MC wove moonlight thread. It was truly a unique experience for me. On the other hand, there was some hang ups and “slowness” I guess in how the plot progresses in the external realm (so internally the MC was changing and growing however that did not extend to her actions and the external plot).
Story and Writing
(I tried splitting them but they were too intertwined and leaving them together made the review less confusing).
Honestly if it weren’t for Ibanez’s beautiful and flowy writing I think I would have been bored at some point of the book. Ximena, our MC, is allegedly trained for her whole life to be a decoy spy however I did not see that. Quite frankly she is a sloppy spy if that’s the case. The whole time it felt like she was gripping at lines blindly trying to pick the right “answer” or course of action. Most of the time, the answers and revelations were given to her.
I could tell that there are brilliant concepts and ideas lurking in Ibanez’s mind, some of the magic that happens in the book is so whimsical and fairytale like it was fantastic. However it just seemed that the story prolonged itself and went in circles before the reader gets sucked into a whirlpool than bam that’s it. I wasn’t properly introduced to the earlier characters in Ximena’s life to actually care about them thus when she was grieving in the first chapters of the book I couldn’t connect with her because I couldn’t feel the importance of the characters.
I absolutely loved the interactions between characters, especially Ximena’s and Rumi’s banter. These dialogues are mainly the ones that kept me invested in the book, seeing how both of them learnt the importance of listening and hearing each other out and how that reflected in their everchanging and blossoming feelings towards one another is so beautiful and dare I say it: romantic.
I did not think I would like Ximena as much as I did by the end of the book. She truly was a surprise. At the beginning she was too impulsive for me, someone who didn’t care about the consequences and kept on pursuing a path or thought even though she internally knew there would be dire end results. Again not the thought process of an espionage spy in “years” of training.
Loved him. You can tell that there was more to him than what’s on the surface. He was someone who was intelligent, methodical, and one of the more logical characters of the book. A perfect love interest in my opinion to the more emotive Ximena.
I know this is a minor thing but I felt the glossary was lacking. It mainly contained food terms, but I would love to have seen detailed descriptions of the clothing and Spanish slang in the glossary as well.
In my Goodreads review, I’ve said that I wasn’t going to read the second book but since then I’ve changed my mind and decided to give Written in Starlight a go!
Do I recommend? If you love descriptive YA fantasy this one’s for you, though it’s not a must read.