Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one.
But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.
Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.
And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.
Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.
Most of the chosen do.
I’m just going to come right out and say it. I thought Elisa was a whiny little rich girl princess in the beginning of this book. We know that she’s a scholar, but she doesn’t have any real responsibilities. Her sister will be the next queen, so there isn’t any reason for Elisa to be involved in court activities. She has no one to answer to because, in her religion, she is sent from God and is a supreme being of sorts. She has to do her Service to God, and then she will probably die. She seems to spend her time eating and reading which, as a princess, is kind of an awesome life. Until she gets politically married to Prince Alejandro. He’s a widower, and needs Elisa’s father’s troops to fight off the encroaching Inviernos. Elisa hates her wedding dress (or, I should say, her body in her wedding dress), but finds Alejandro handsome and mysterious. They don’t consummate their marriage before leaving for Alejandro’s country.
Elisa is a whiner, and her focus is mostly on how hot she is or how uncomfortable her clothes are. I like that Carson used a heroine that could be considered fat, but really, Elisa hates her body. She constantly complains about how she looks and sweats. This isn’t really an empowered fat girl at all, but I can see how maybe modern girls can relate. Love your body, girls! /soapbox
Anyway, they’re attacked by Perditos near Alejandro’s city (where they’re arriving unannounced and unexpected). Elisa sees Alejandro surrounded and she saves him, stabbing a man in the chest. She agonizes about this for the remainder of the book, but not in an obnoxious way. I like my females hard (see: Kate Daniels) but I also like them soft, and Elisa is the epitome of soft. When they arrive, Alejandro introduces her as a guest, and tell her he doesn’t want anyone to know he’s remarried yet. This hurts Elisa, but she agrees. He also warns her not to tell anyone about the Godstone. Elisa flounces about for awhile in Alejandro’s antique castle.
WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS
When she’s kidnapped, I almost felt sorry for her. Her husband isn’t really her husband, she’s in a new place with new people, and she really wants to help and make Alejandro love her. But she’s forced across the desert with a motley crew of young people: Belen, Cosme, Jacian, and, wait for it, Humberto. Guess which one is the potential love interest? You got it. Humberto. (What is up with these names? Humberto, and Tucker from Unearthly, and Patch from Hush, Hush. This needs to stop.)
Elisa ends up dropping a lot of weight on this forced desert march, something she is delighted about, and just one more thing I side-eyed. Like I said, fat pride wasn’t really a concept Elisa entertained. They reach a village and something about war and the Inviernos are coming and they can’t tell Alejandro about the Inviernos because he’ll make them evacuate. Et cetera. (I hate war strategies.) Elisa comes up with a plan to save these people from the Inviernos, but she has to reveal that she’s Alejandro’s wife. That makes Humberto sad. Elisa and her friends gather their stuff to observe the Invierno army. Humberto stays mad, but they talk when they find a cave and Humberto kisses her. And then the Inviernos come.
Elisa is caught, of course. Turns out Belen told the Inviernos where she was hiding. Elisa finds out that the enemy also has Godstones that they can use as a kind of magic. They’re called Animagi. Elisa kills one and escapes back to Humberto and her friends. Belen returns to tell them that the Inviernos are coming, and that a village will be destroyed when any resistance attacks the Inviernos. In the midst of this, Humberto wants to tell Elisa that she could leave Alejandro because their marriage hasn’t been consummated. Boys, I swear.
There’s this corrupt count they have to deal with before they go, so they try to set him up for a trap. It fails, they get imprisoned, and THEN MY MOUTH IS LIKE THIS :O FOR LIKE AN HOUR because….
RAE CARSON SLITS HUMBERTO’S THROAT! D: D: D: RIGHT? BUT KIND OF AWESOME TOO.
Elisa is kind of stunned and tries to cut her Godstone out, but Cosme stops her. Have I mentioned Humberto was her brother? He was. Sad. Like legitimately, I was sad, but that was a huge turning point in this novel. NO ONE has the strength to kill their own characters, and when they do, it’s someone so insignificant you just don’t care. But not this time. Carson does an awesome job capturing how raw and horrible this is, and Humberto dies so quickly. Elisa does not get to tell him she loves him. There’s no happy ending for them. And in this genre, that’s powerful.
I’m going to save the ending for you to read, but I highly, highly recommend this book. It’s almost perfect.