Many thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers as well as the author, Tracy Banghart, for the opportunity to read an advanced copy through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Serina was raised to become a Grace. She has trained her entire life to be lovely, compliant, follow all the rules, and please the heir with the hope that he will choose her to be, not only a Grace, but head Grace, giving her the opportunity to produce his first heir. She is eager and confident with her role and believes that if she succeeds, her and her sister, who has trained to become her handmaiden, will have comfortable lives.
Nomi is a rebel, she refuses to follow the rules, she is daring, smart and headstrong. She wants nothing to do with the heir, so when she dares look him in the eye and speak her mind, she inadvertently catches his attention, and he chooses her to be one of three Graces instead of her sister, Serina.
When I first read the synopsis of this book I somehow managed to confuse the two sisters, so I wasn't expecting the author to change things up in such a fascinating manner. Nomi, the headstrong sister is forced to become the one thing she hates. A Grace. She has to dress in gowns, wear makeup, please the heir, constantly follow all the rules. She is determined to stay strong and find a way to free Serina who took the fall for Nomi when her secret was discovered.
Serina is sent to Mount Ruin, a harsh and terrible women's prison where they are forced to fight to the death in order to survive. The living conditions are abysmal, there is danger everywhere, and if Serina is forced to fight, she is sure she will die. Each sister is thrown into a terrible situation, neither feels equipped to survive.
Initially I was drawn to Nomi, to her intelligence, nerve and risk taking nature. I originally thought she would be the sister to end up in prison. Silly me. As the story progressed, Serina's chapters became more and more engaging. The character building was amazing. The sisters are forced to grow and find strengths they never knew they possessed.
I felt that this book was beautifully written, and I absolutely loved the cliffhanger ending. That is not something I normally say. Cliffhangers tend to drive me crazy when we are left hanging at the most inopportune time, but this cliffhanger succeeded in leaving me super excited and happy to see where the next book will take us.