A familiar premise enlivened by some surprises.
Princess Anthia has been depressed since the military might of neighboring kingdom Illucia destroyed her nation’s magical crows and killed her mother. Months later, about to be married to the Illucian prince, Thia discovers one surviving crow egg. This gives her the strength to become angry and fight her depression, fomenting rebellion (and falling in love—but not with the prince). There is diversity in this world; the kingdoms vary in culture, values, and appearance. Thia and her people are brown-skinned while her best friend is blonde and likes girls, something the text treats as unremarkable; the wicked Illucians are also fair-skinned. While the racial differences have some parallels to real-world power structures, the story never examines race in any meaningful way. Sadly, the worldbuilding is also reductive; as the backmatter makes clear, the values of the kingdoms are indistinguishable from the characteristics of the citizens. Pedestrian writing, particularly the overreliance on clichéd similes, further detracts from the strengths. The portrayal of depression feels clinical rather than emotionally resonant. Still, the formula of feisty female lead overcoming military might in a diverse world a lá Leigh Bardugo or Sabaa Tahir has plenty of sticking power, so this is likely to find some readers.
Debut author Josephson may have potential but she’s not there yet. (map, guide to characters/setting) (Fantasy. 12-18)