Rating: 4/5 Stars
I was given an eARC of this novel by the author in exchange for an honest review. This review will be spoiler-free for this book, but includes spoilers for The Savior’s Champion.
Full disclosure: I am on Jenna’s street team again for this book. Like last time, this hasn’t affected my review.
Right off the bat, I want to say that I really enjoyed this book! In fact, in some ways I liked it even more than The Savior’s Champion. I preferred Leila’s point of view to Tobias’s, I thought the writing in this book was better overall, and the political intrigue really hooked me in a way the challenges in book one didn’t always manage to do. So, you might be wondering why I gave it a lower rating than the one I gave TSC back in 2018. To that, I have two answers.
First, I’m a more critical reader than I was back then. My review for TSC was one of the first I’d ever done, and I was still working out my rating system back then. Even still, if I read that book today, I’d likely give it a 4 or 4.5 star rating. It was a good book. But I’ll admit, I did let a few things go that I probably wouldn’t have today.
But my second reason for giving this book a lower rating is that, even though I potentially liked it more than TSC, there were some issues I had with it as a whole that stemmed directly from it being a companion novel. If this book had been the first in the series, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would’ve given it 5 stars. But we’ll get into that in a bit. First, let’s talk about the good stuff (of which there is a lot).
By far my favorite thing about this book was Leila and her POV. I love me a sassy female main character, and this girl did NOT disappoint! But she was more than just sassy. She was a total badass, and an amazing leader. It was so cool to see her in her element as the Savior, after spending the first book not knowing who she was (well, I actually did guess that twist back in the day, but still!). Also, and this might just be personal taste, but I really loved the fact that she was so inexperienced when it came to guys. It just made it fun to be in her head during her scenes with Tobias, because I could totally relate to her naivety and nervousness. It was cute!
I also thought Moreci’s writing really improved between this book and TSC. I didn’t notice any info dumping like in the first book, and just in general there was something about the way Moreci wrote in this book that really appealed to me. I don’t know if this has to do with her really nailing Leila’s voice, or just an overall improvement in writing craft, but either way, it really stood out to me.
Another great thing about this book was the plot. Since this is a companion novel, I was sincerely worried going in that the story would fall flat because I already knew what was going to happen. While this did occur a little bit (which we’ll talk about in a second), overall I found that the plot felt new. There was so much that we readers had no idea about, and I had a blast learning about all of the political scheming and what really went into keeping Leila’s identity as the Savior a secret.
However, like I said, there were some instances where rehashing the same story over again did make the plot and its pacing drag a little. The romance in particular caused a few problems for me. Though there were some scenes I was thrilled to finally see from Leila’s POV, there were also some that I really didn’t care about, and that almost bored me at times. These moments were few and far between, though, and as a whole I felt that they didn’t inhibit my enjoyment of the novel too much.
Another (slightly related) issue I had with this book came in the form of the things Moreci didn’t cover again, likely for fear of rehashing things and boring her readers. I doubt this would’ve been a problem if I’d read TSC and this novel back-to-back, but since it’s been about two years since I read the first book, I did find that certain things escaped my memory that I wished would’ve been covered again. The biggest example of this came in the form of the champions. While Moreci did make an attempt to remind the reader of who the champions were, what I felt was lacking was a connection to those champions. Even the ones Leila interacted with felt a bit flat, because they didn’t get much time or attention. A majority of the focus when it came to rounding out characters in this book went toward Tobias, Leila’s sisters, and some of Leila’s staff. But since these champions were there fighting for the right to marry Leila, even if Leila wasn’t a fan of the tournament, it would’ve been nice if she’d given at least a little more care to getting to know them.
This leads me to my final critique, which might be a bit controversial, but just remember, it’s only my opinion. Personally, I think this book could have–and should have–been merged with TSC. I know, I know. By doing this, we’d lose out on the big mystery/reveal of Leila’s true identity. But also, since I guessed that plot twist very early on in my reading of TSC, I don’t feel like I would miss it all that much. I honestly think it would’ve been worth the sacrifice, because then we could’ve gotten both Tobias’s and Leila’s POVs without having to rehash the same scenes and without missing out on character development.
However, since it’s too late to hope for that–both books are already out, after all–there’s no use dwelling on it. But I will admit, by about halfway through this novel, I caught myself mentally piecing together a Frankenstein Monster with scenes from TSC and TSS. Ah, what could have been!
Overall, though, I really did have a great time reading this book. The good far outweighed my few criticisms, and I’d for sure recommend this to anybody who’s read TSC and wants to finally understand what was going on with Leila while Tobias was kicking ass and taking names. Fans of novels with complex politics and scheming will devour this book, as well as fans of sexy forbidden romances.