I picked this book up on a whim (and also that gorgeous cover) because I’d enjoyed Kiersten White’s story in My True Love Gave to Me and had promised to try out some of her other works. This is a historical fantasy-paranormal romance mash-up. Jessamin is in school in Albion (a very English-feeling country) and works herself to the bone trying to get the education she needs to rise out of poverty and servitude. Jessamin is from Melei, an island colony of Albion, and her dark skin, gender, and national origin put her at a disadvantage for surviving and succeeding in Albion and in school. Things change for Jessamin when she meets the handsome, rich, and mysterious Finn and is introduced to his world– the wealth, the politics, and the magic. But, of course, their relationship is in peril due to Finn’s mortal enemy who will stop at nothing to obtain the magical secrets and power that he believes Finn possesses.
What I liked: This was smart fluff– somehow managing to be both serious and fluffy at the same time. Both Jessamin and Finn are YA stereotypes, but somehow they are more than just the cliche. Jessamin is smart and beautiful and doesn’t fit in, while Finn is rich and has a paranormal secret and wants to protect Jessamin from his complicated and dangerous political/paranormal dealings. And they’re destined by fate to be together… except Jessamin is determined to not leave anything to fate and demands to make her own choices and to be in control of her own destiny. I liked Jessamin’s stubborn determination to get an education and make it on her own without accepting handouts from anyone. I also enjoyed the post-colonial dialogue in the book and the plot twist at the end surprised me.
What I felt meh about: Most of this story skimmed the surface when there was definite potential for more depth– more political intrigue, more romance, more character development.
All in all: I have gone on to read more Kiersten White because of this book. White is clever and writes diverse characters and is just plain fun to read.