This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life
In the interest of full disclosure, I received an advance reader edition of this book from Scholastic Press and Net Galley for the purpose of providing an honest review.
I am having a really hard time deciding how to rate this book. On one hand, I love the premise of the story but I find the execution somewhat lacking. I would have to say that is a 2.5 out of 5 star read for me. I do understand that as a mother of 2 teenage girls, my daughters are the more likely targeted audience for this novel even though I read and enjoy lots of YA titles.
Alexa and her twin brother Marcus find themselves orphaned at the beginning of the book. They decide that Alexa will pose as a male, Alex, and serve in the king's army alongside her brother. If the fact that Alex is female is ever discovered, she would be forced into one of the king's breeding houses. Alex is an excellent fighter and is assigned as one of Prince Damian's guards.
The beginning of the book was not completely original as anyone who has seen Mulan knows but it was promising. I enjoyed the first 40% of the book or so although it did have some issues. The major issue was that Alex acted like a girl. How she was able to fool everyone for years is beyond me.
Then the book shifted. It almost felt like the author had a checklist that she was following on how to write a YA novel.....love triangle...check. Really, was the love triangle necessary? Did it further the plot at all? The only thing that the love triangle did in my opinion is ruin any chance this book had of being enjoyable. Instead of the tough girl who will fight to stay alive and for what is right, she became the girl who just wants the boy to like her and to not hurt anyone's feelings. This love triangle seemed very forced to me and I could not for the life of me figure out how she had attracted either of the men.
The end of the book went back to having a lot of action and I felt that those scenes were where the better parts of the book. This story had the potential to be an awesome book if the author had focused on Alex, the tough survivor. I have seen this book described as a fantasy novel and I would disagree on that. Just because a book has a few castles and a little magic does not mean that it should be considered a fantasy. This book should be labeled romance because that is what it is.
I do feel that this book may have an audience but that audience is definitely not me. I do see that this is a planned series but I don't think I will be reading any future books in this series.