Jen reviews The Starlight Blade, the fourth book in Nancy O’Toole‘s Fantasy Fairy tale retelling series, The Twin Kingdoms. Read Jen’s previous reviews of The Rose and the Claw, A Dance with Magic, and The Wayward Tower.
This series has renewed all my love for fairytale retellings and now I just want to go on a retelling binge.
|Series: The Twin Kingdoms #4
|Genre: Fantasy/fairytale retelling
|Date of Publishing: February 2nd, 2022
|Trigger Warnings: death, violence, mind games
|Page count: 162
The Warrior Princess
Viola Verdis would do anything to protect her family. But what can she can do against The Mage King—an ancient enemy who hides in the shadows and uses others as pawns? With the royal family scattered for their own protection, it falls to Viola to protect her father, King Valient. But The Mage King’s latest weapon has plenty of tricks up her sleeve.
An Assassin in Disguise
Rue regrets joining The Mage King in his quest to sacrifice the royal family. And now, his magic burns in her chest, tying her to his will. By day, she disguises herself as a kitchen maid, masked by her cloak of many furs. By night, she plans King Valient’s demise, armed with the weapons of her late mother, Kelvia’s most notorious assassin. Only one person stands in her way, the king’s ever-present and infuriatingly beautiful daughter, Viola. Viola draws Rue in like no one has ever done before. But following her heart is impossible when she knows what she must do.
Spill royal blood, or die.
“Life comes in cycles. Anyone can see that. But not everyone fits neatly into those cycles, and sometimes it sucks being that person.” I felt my shoulders slump. “Verdians are supposed to be honest, straightforward. But what happens when who you are breaks the rules?”
Rabbit Heart by Florence and The Machine
The Starlight Blade completes The Twin Kingdoms series of novellas with Viola’s story. I’ve been curious about Viola since we met her in A Dance with Magic and was pleasantly surprised to find that her story is entangled with Rue’s, and is the first f/f pairing of this series.
Ok. So, this is going to be a short review because I don’t want to spoil too much.
Viola and Rue have an enemy to lover’s sort of relationship. This happens to be one of my favourite romance tropes – I love getting to see a couple meet and fall in love, despite their differences and whose side of the conflict they’re on. A big reason it’s a favourite storytelling device with me, is because an understanding of each other and a certain amount of trust, and friendship, has to build for these kinds of relationships to work.
Like the previous novellas, in The Starlight Blade, we get POVs from both characters, allowing us to get in their heads and get a full picture quickly, something needed with these shorter stories, that have a fairly deep history, magic and world-building involved.
I loved Viola. I have been waiting for more of her story, she is the no-nonsense, more serious half of the twins, and balances her brother Victor well. I like that we get to see what makes her special, and not just the surface stuff, but how much she cares about the people of her country and what she is doing to support them.
Rue doesn’t give us a good initial impression when we meet her in The Wayward Tower, but as we get to know her and see she is as much of a victim to the Mage King than an accomplice, her story and efforts to help make things right, eventually win our trust, and love, right along with Viola’s.
I love the world and the magic through this series, and how each story cleverly reworks a fairy-tale to show us a piece of the puzzle as a whole, explaining how the Mage King became who he is and in this grand finale tying up all the loose ends and put an end to his ultimate goal.
This has been such a great series and every installment, I just wanted more of everything to do with it.
If you love retellings this is a not to be missed series!