Monsters or heroes: Our choices define us.
In Zhao’s debut, Anastacya, the Crown Princess of Cyrilia, is charged with the murder of her father and is presumed dead herself. For the past 11 months, however, she has been desperately searching for the real murderer. Seeking help, Ana breaks Ramson Quicktongue, a purported criminal mastermind, out of prison. However, Ramson is out for revenge against someone who betrayed him as well as on a mission to regain his status as Deputy of the Order of the Lily, an underground criminal organization that deals in human trafficking. Though at times her emotions feel overwrought, Ana is not the typical damsel in distress. She asks for help when needed but is capable of making ruthless threats and carrying out quick decisions. In fact, readers should take heed of the title, because there is quite a bit of blood spilled from multiple orifices; the path to redemption and revenge is not always pretty. Descriptions such as “lost princess” and the characters’ names may lead readers to certain conclusions about the plot, however, they simply evoke the Eastern European–inspired setting; the ruling Northern Cyrilians are pale and have light hair while Ana’s mother came from the “tawny-skinned Southern Cyrilians.” A secondary character comes from an East Asian–like culture that references yin and yang.
No new ground broken but a good read for those looking for bloody action and twisty politics. (map, glossary) (Fantasy. 14-18)