Sonya was in hiding most of her life after it was discovered that she has the ability to feel what the people around her feel. Those with that gift are trained from the time their abilities emerge, knowing that they might be called upon to serve as the emperor’s Auraseer – someone who gives warning if she feels danger among the people. Sonya has only been training for a few months when a tragedy makes her the oldest girl among those with the gift and she’s forced to become the Auraseer. How can she protect the emperor from potential assassins when she can’t even figure out if what she’s feeling comes from her or someone else? She finds herself caught between the charming but power-hungry emperor Valko and his younger brother, the prince, Anton, and with threats of revolution coming and the brothers in disagreement, Sonya is caught in the middle. Who does she trust and who does she betray?
This was a book I was really looking forward to and was hoping for lots of world-building and character growth within the 500+ pages. The concept was something that intrigued me but the love triangle right in the synopsis had me worried. There were definitely times when it felt like the romance was pushing the plot more than a rebellion or growth in Sonya’s character.
Sonya was a really interesting character because it was hard to tell if her feelings were genuine or if she was mistaking what someone else was feeling for her own. She was so untrained on how to handle her power that she could easily be influenced by a crowd of people with one dominant emotion. She was a constant outcast, first because of her rare gift, then because she’d spent so long in the world outside the convent where most girls with gifts attended from a young age, and finally as the Auraseer. I liked that she fought for what she wanted even when she knew she would lose and that she refused to give up and was worried about doing her job right because if she failed, it meant she would be replaced by one of the younger girls, and she didn’t want them in her position.
There was a lot of focus on Sonya’s relationships with both the emperor and the prince. She was at the palace to serve the emperor and there was no denying he was passionate and charming. The prince was mysterious and she was drawn to him. Nothing was simple about the relationships because of her powers. The emperor, Valko, was so manipulative and it was hard for both Sonya and for me to know what she was truly feeling in regards to him. I actually kind of liked the confusion because it fit with how untrained Sonya was, leaving herself open and unable to differentiate between her emotions and his. Her relationship with Anton was more complicated and that was the one I found myself rooting for the most. He was more careful and he doubted what ability to separate his feelings from hers, but he also helped her when her powers would get overwhelming.
The book was slow. There was a lot that had be to set up before Sonya could even get to the palace, and a lot to be set up before she could meet the emperor. There were times when things didn’t flow from one scene to the next quite seamlessly but overall, I thought the transitions were handled well. There were some minor characters that stood out, Sonya’s maid Pia and her boyfriend Yuri, but most were in the background and never really got developed.
My favourite thing about the book ended up being the relationship and the back story of Valko and Anton. There was always tension whenever they were in the same room and with them being the only family they each had left, I couldn’t help wondering if they would be able to be family to each other or if their relationship was already too broken.
There was a lot about this book that felt like its job was to set-up for something bigger coming down the road. I enjoyed it enough to say I would like to know what’s going to be coming down that road.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.