An unlikely duo tackles power plays both political and magical.
Alchemist Blue hides her magic (illegal since Balavata suffered a blood wraith) and devotes herself to discovering how to turn lead into gold to help her city’s impoverished orphan population. Although good friends with the princess, Nessa (who cannot speak and communicates with sign language), Blue can’t stand Nessa’s rakish brother, Kellan; the feeling’s mutual, as Kellan regards her as a killjoy. Crown Prince Kellan has only weeks to select a bride from among the nine head families before his 19th birthday. Dinah Chauveau offers an occasional third viewpoint: well-positioned to match her daughter with the prince only to find her schemes crumbling with her husband’s murder as his gambling debts bring her family to the verge of ruin. After Blue’s father is murdered, Dinah sweeps in with shady paperwork to claim Blue and all of her possessions, hoping to use her alchemy to save her standing. Blue finds surprising solace from Kellan as she comes to understand how high the stakes are for his outwardly frivolous political gamesmanship; the expected romance is slow burning and satisfying, with some fun fairy-tale twists as the danger crescendos. Despite certain predictable plot points, the charming leads carry the day. Most characters have varying shades of brown skin, with occasional white people, and race isn’t given weight.
Frothy romance with dashes of intrigue and magic. (Fantasy. 12-18)