The world of the beautiful, sun-drenched Varenians and the pale, cave-castle dwelling Ilarean royalty is a mix of captivating contrasts, and the story itself is a well-paced delight. Nor, our admirable heroine, is bold, challenges ideals that confine her, and find courage in very dark circumstances. Prince Ceren is quite sinister, but his backstory explains the roots of his fear and desperation. Several secondary characters are interesting and add complexity without confusion to an already richly layered story.
Prince Talin, Ceren's half-brother and Nor's love interest, is, sadly the most tedious of the bunch. He is muscular and smashingly handsome, a strange choice in a book that otherwise emphasizes the dangers of valuing beauty over anything else. The romance between Nor and Talin has a promising start but goes from attraction to love too quickly to be believable. At the end, Talin unravels some of the book's mysteries in too-quick succession and throws in what should be a shocking plot twist, but it just feels brushed over. Overall, though, the interesting premise, immersive world, and strong pacing make this a fun page-turning read.