You had me at ‘Slytherin’ romance, Tricia. Honestly though, who is not on board with a villain romance? As soon as I heard the synopsis, I knew I HAD to have this book. Then with the gorgeous cover reveal with all the reds and blacks – I was in love.
We meet our protagonist, Alessandra, reminiscing about killing her first love who broke her heart all while in bed with a new lover. When her new lover asks her to marry him, she declines (though she keeps the ring), and truly this interaction sets the tone for who Alessandra is as a character. She is the overlooked second daughter of a nobleman, whose happiness is no one’s concern and she is biding her time until she is forced to marry out of duty.
Except… Alessandra does not want that, she absolutely LOATHES the idea of it. She is tired of being underestimated and has set her sights on achieving something no other woman has ever achieved – woo the Shadow King. Even still, her ambitions do not end there with simply being the consort or queen to the Shadow King, she wants the throne and she is willing to kill for it.
After catching the attention of the Shadow King and being offered a place at his court, she quickly learns she is not the only one with the idea to kill him. She cannot afford to have her plan fall through so she decides she needs to help him survive… only long enough so she can marry him of course. But will she succeed in wooing the king and then taking the throne for herself?
I loved Alessandra. While undeniably she is a flawed, selfish character – that’s the POINT. Who would not want a strong main character who owns her flaws, her sexuality, and will do anything to get what she wants? It was such a refreshing main character to have and I loved seeing her know exactly what she wanted and to go after it by any means necessary. No damsel in distress here – she is the perfect type of character to come in and challenge everything expected of women. She takes on the sexism headfirst and destroys it. I loved to see her be the master manipulator and play the role expected of her and then flip the situation on its head as soon as she got what she wanted.
It is like Trisha read our minds and made a character who encompasses every whim and dark desire we WISH we could act out. But I digress.
While Alessandra represents one side of the villain spectrum, we then have her balance – the Shadow King. While Alessandra is wild, headstrong and reactionary, the Shadow King is much more refined, patient and no less ambitious. He balances Alessandra’s fire with dark tendrils of power and a cool aloofness. It is no secret I am a villain lover and I love romantic tension, so the Shadow King checked all the boxes for me.
While both characters fall on the darker side of morally gray characters, it was refreshing to see such diversity between the two villains.
Although this book is based around two villain-type characters I was very surprised at the lightheartedness of the book in general. Something I did not expect is the female friendships that Alessandra developed at court. While her character type is not someone I would picture having close friends, it was refreshing to see genuine friendships pop up. I think it gave her a great duality and made for her to be a well-rounded character. She also very much loved the Shadow King’s dog. I loved that Tricia brought in an animal to the story and especially so mundane and dopey as a dog. As subtle as it is I really think the addition of the Shadow King’s dog served to humanize the characters, though I might question the dog’s character judgment.
Overall I really enjoyed this book! It was a slow burn romance that definitely was different than others in the YA genre. I loved the characters, their interactions, and their growth.