A princess explores her mysterious past in this debut fantasy.
Princess Cruentus Fate of Macellarius is a mere 7 years old when her father sells her to a brothel. But her twin, Prince Abyssus, has a theory that the king isn’t even their father; indeed, Fate remembers only the last two years of her life. Fortunately, the brothel’s madam and the other girls are kind, and Fate joins them in the Rebellion against the Council, which governs the empire of Mu. As the brothel won’t auction off Fate until she’s 16, she tries winning the affections of Prince Caeles Hero of Nitor so he’ll bid on her. But a potential marriage to Hero comes with its own set of problems. Since he’s “Tainted,” he reputedly spreads miasma (spiritual blood) that negatively affects others. Meanwhile, Fate gradually learns about her past, mostly through Abyssus’ journal. Though they’re supposedly both Ancients with elemental capabilities, Abyssus suspects they may be something else entirely. But even more answers may lie in Fate’s bizarre, lucid dreams in which interactions with gods and folklore characters seemingly are connected to her lost memories. Yin and Yang fill their series opener with cryptic passages and events, such as someone Fate has just met saying, “You and your brother have always been dear to me.” This book doesn’t answer all of the questions, though the ending wonderfully sets the stage for the authors’ planned 60-volume series. Still, there’s laudable character development in this installment. Fate feels a genuine fondness for Abyssus and Hero and discovers a rival for the latter’s affections. Menaces also crop up throughout (for example, a “gargantuan” and intimidating royal guard) along with instances of violence. The authors’ lucid prose frequently evokes the senses, particularly during Fate’s surreal dreams: “The sound of breathing echoed and trailed, then silence returned….Above her, stars twinkled, and beneath her feet, a dark swirling vortex spun as it reached down into endless black.”
A somewhat perplexing but engaging start to what’s sure to be an epic fantasy saga. (dedication, map, acknowledgements, author bios)