I don’t like to get on a bandwagon. I don’t like to squee about something just because it’s popular. Maybe that’s why I waited so long to post this review.

But this book. Oh. I heard about it first from Brittany over at Brittany’s Book Rambles, and in her #BBTC twitter chat she gave away a pre-order of the book, and I won! I was so excited… but it seemed to take so long to get here! (Maybe because I won in December and it was a May release!) And then, finally it was here. And I had a schedule full of events that left me completely knackered (note to self: schedule events around highly anticipated releases!).

So I missed the Twitter real-along, for the most part, although it wasn’t really spoiler-y so I read most of the discussion. Brittany is really good at piquing your interest about a book without spoiling it! And I finally was able to jump on this in advance of a holiday weekend during which I knew my husband had to work. It rained! Yay for rain. I was reading until 2:30 am the last night, and I did not want the story to end!

“Again, Renata’s tea leaves were correct. Nikolai was born of Death, and Death would always follow him. The only question that remained was, would he also help usher in Death?”

I was, I admit it, completely ready to love this for several reasons: I loved the premise, and I had just been hearing SO MANY good things from Brittany about this, for so long. And I heard other people were excited about it, too. Plus, of course, it’s got magic, and it’s got that Russian setting that is just so uniquely exotic and I loved that. And it’s set in a historical era, with at least some of the major players having been real people.

So many things here were done well, but above all, the best – THE BEST – was the writing itself. The characters were pitch perfect, the setting was gorgeous and exquisitely detailed without taking over, and the story – the writing, the quotes! I loved the mere way the words were put together. I even tweeted out a few quotes and had to flag them in my book. And Evelyn Skye, that sweetheart author, liked my tweets! *heart flutter*


I won’t provide a synopsis – you can get that anywhere. It would be hard to do without spoiling, which I why I think what you will see out there is brief. Let’s just say that this is a very imaginative, almost-could-be-real competition between two enchanters, that turns out to be far more complicated than either of them could have imagined. There’s love triangles (or quadrangles?) and dresses and pastries! Lots and lots of pastry. I think the food talk here made it feel that much more real.

The setting of this book will be with you long after you’ve finished reading the story. I am still thinking about the icy canals, the beautiful palace, and oh, the baked goods.

And yes, the story was good, too. There is a little mystery left over, and I don’t want to spoil the best parts, but I do love the idea – no matter how often it is used – of a child discovering their destiny. If you liked Harry Potter and rooted for the underdog boy, you will be torn in two by the impossible situation of our two protagonists.

“He was a poisonous autumn crocus: deadly beautiful with no antidote./ She wanted the flower anyway.”

I am excited for book two. I think there are more surprises in store, and I think that Yuliana will play a bigger role. I don’t know – there are so many possibilities! I am so glad that I won this book. And oh, did I mention that there was swag? Pre-order swag is the best thing. One of the prizes was a set of trading cards and a bookplate. And the other prize was… *drumroll* my name in the acknowledgment of book two! So ahem, yes, look for my name there. This is part of a duology and I have it on good authority that the second book will be out in 2017. Very much looking forward to it!