By Sarah Fine
Published January 5, 2016 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Reviewed from e-ARC
Elli has lived her entire life in preparation: one day, she will become the Valtia of her people and wield the magic that keeps them safe and satisfied. For Elli to become the Valtia, the queen must die and the magic will find its new home in her. But when that happens, the magic is nowhere to be found. Is it possible that everything Elli has believed about herself is a lie? If she isn't the Valtia, who is she? And where is the magic?
I'd heard lots of good things about Fine, so when I saw her newest available as a digital galley, I figured I'd give it a shot. I liked the worldbuilding (which may be influenced by Scandinavian lore? Just my own guess there). The notion of the country's magic being embodied in one person who then uses that magic to keep her people safe was pretty intriguing. No surprise, of course, that the truth about the magic is not that simple. I thought Elli was a realistic protagonist - I liked the balancing of her thirst for knowledge with her inherent trust in what she's always known. I really liked the exploration of the relationship between the Saadela and the Valtia - I like when books dig into the complex relationships between women. I also really appreciated the LGBT aspect of this novel; it was palpably present but not the central issue, something that I think we could do with more of. I enjoyed discovering the truth of the magic alongside Elli - it felt natural. I really enjoyed Oskar and his family. I even enjoyed the romance that develops in the book, though I certainly don't think it's the most interesting aspect.
I hadn't realized when I started this that it would be the first in a series, but I'm happy to return to this world for a sequel. Thanks to the published for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.