Another book in the constant stream of read-alikes for Game of Thrones, with an actual body count.
Ten years ago, war tore through Pelgard, ended by the Pax Regina: three girls, each heir to a kingdom, were taken as hostages to be raised by the self-proclaimed high king Declan alongside his own daughter. Cadis, Iren, Rhea, and Suki have spent a decade together in brutal competition, being trained in the arts of war and decorum. But at the 10th celebration of the peace, the ball is attacked by mysterious assailants; each girl sees different clues in the battle. The princesses are scarcely more than well-executed tropes (beautiful but insecure warrior woman; physical weakling who is actually an intellectual mastermind; spoiled but insecure rich girl; crazy wild child). Despite this, they share a desire for power, their own lands, and the attention of handsome stable boy Endrit, their only friend. At least the alternating close third-person narrations vary in tone and syntax. The lack of clear back story makes the plotting and the late-game reveal of a true heir lack intensity, unlike the battle scenes, which are gory but not gratuitous.
The slow, confusing opening does no favors, but eventually things speed up; anyone who makes it through the midpoint will end eager to see what happens next. (Fantasy. 12-16)