Library Journal Review
Gr 8 Up-This debut is a sprawling girl-powered fantasy that pulls readers on an adventure that spans generations. Raised by her grandfather, Brienna knows nothing of her father except that he lives in Maevena, the troubled and violent kingdom to the north of her native Valenia. At 10, her grandfather spirits her away to Magnalia House in as much an effort to hide her from her father as to teach her to become a passion-an expert in one of the five Valenian virtues. Just as Brienna is on the verge of gaining her passion, she begins to have strange visions: memories of a Maevan man who may have been her ancestor. These visions lead Brienna into the thick of a plot to usurp Maevena's cruel King Lannon and place the country's rightful queen on the throne, but the more Brienna learns about her past, the more her future is endangered. Although the story starts off a bit slowly with Brienna's misadventures at Magnalia and plenty of luscious world-building, once the visions start, Ross expertly weaves Brienna's past and present into a compelling page-turner. Smart readers may find that the extensive front matter, including family trees of many of the characters, telegraph some of the narrative's twists and turns, but there are still plenty of surprises to keep readers guessing. VERDICT Hand this magical debut to teen readers who loved the close female friendships of Shannon Hale's Princess Academy or the sprawling epics of Sarah J. Maas's "Throne of Glass" series.-Mimi Powell, Library Systems and Services, Kissimmee, FL © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
*Starred Review* Brienna has never really known where she comes from; her long-dead mother hails from Valenia, where Brienna lives, while the father she's never known comes from the rival kingdom of Maevana. She also struggles to know where she's going; since she was 10, Brienna has lived at Magnalia, a school that trains young women in the mastery of one of the five passions (art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge). Brienna, who never showed particular aptitude for any passion, has spent the last three years of her training attempting to master knowledge. Now 17, she fails to secure a patron at the end of her training, and finds herself adrift again, until a secretive lord with a mysterious past offers to take her on. The kingdom of Maevana was once ruled by magical queens, until a tyrannical man overthrew them, and Brienna learns that her patron lost almost everything in that war. Now he's devoted to restoring the rightful queen, and her magic, to the throne. Torn between two countries and multiple potential futures, Brienna has difficult choices to make. Sophisticated plotting is the hallmark of this debut, which deftly navigates complex, treasonous plots and political intrigue. Brienna herself, unsure but brave and passionate, is an admirable narrator, and her struggles to belong and understand enhance this stunning literary adventure.--Reagan, Maggie Copyright 2017 Booklist