Blurb (from Goodreads):
Serena knows a few simple things. She will always be owned by a warlock. She will never have freedom. She will always do what her warlock wishes, regardless of how inane, frivolous, or cruel it is. And if she doesn’t follow the rules, she will be tarnished. Spelled to be bald, inked, and barren for the rest of her life—worth less than the shadow she casts.
Then her ownership is won by a barbarian from another country. With the uncertainty that comes from belonging to a new warlock, Serena questions if being tarnished is really worse than being owned by a barbarian, and tempts fate by breaking the rules. When he looks the other way instead of punishing her, she discovers a new world. The more she ventures into the forbidden, the more she learns of love and a freedom just out of reach. Serena longs for both. But in a society where women are only ever property, hoping for more could be deadly.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
(Source: I won a copy of this book. Thanks to author Janeal Falor.)
17-year-old Serena has long put up with her father’s beatings and rules, no matter how unfair, but now she’s being sold off to the highest bidder, and she can’t help but worry that things are about to get worse.
Serena lives in a world in which men have magic and are called Warlocks, whilst women are a commodity to be traded. Serena is the oldest of 14 girls, a fact that her father is not happy about – there is much more prestige in having powerful sons rather than daughters who are unable to use magic. At the age of 17 a daughter’s power is tested though, and they are then sold as brides. The more powerful girls reach a much better price, as their husband stands to gain that magic for himself once they are joined.
Serena is found to have a lot of power, and a husband is quickly found for her. Serena hates being treated like a commodity, but that is the way things are and there is nothing she can do to change it.
On meeting her husband-to-be though, Serena finds that as expected she doesn’t like him, and is worried for the future. She’s even more concerned though when her fiancée is killed during a tournament and ownership of her is transferred to the man who killed him.
Zane is a large man from a land called Envadi, and Serena has long been taught that the Envadi’s are barbarians, and she can’t help but worry that his punishments will be worse even than her father’s. Is this ‘out of the frying pan into the fire’? Only time will tell for poor Serena.
Should Serena fear Zane though? Are the Envadi really barbarians? And must a woman always be owned?
I really enjoyed this book, it reminded me a bit of ‘The Selection’, and I loved the mystery of not knowing what would become of Serena.
Serena was in fact quite a quiet girl, but also a brave one. She had spent most of her life taking punishments for things that were not her fault to save her 13 younger sisters, as her father believed in punishing his possessions as he saw fit.
I felt bad for her when her ownership kept being transferred, and when she had no idea what would happen to her, but I also wondered which was really worse – would her new husband beat her the way her father did? Would he rape her?
When Serena was introduced to her husband-to-be Thomas I hoped that maybe she had lucked out and got a man who would be nice to her, although unfortunately that didn’t seem to be the case. I hoped the same thing again when her ownership was transferred to Zane, and was glad when it seemed he wasn’t into punishments the way her father was.
Serena did like to bend the rules, although at times it seemed less about her being rebellious, than being naïve. I did like the way she would suddenly speak up for herself or make some kind of comment that her father would have beat her for, but I also thought that at times she was fighting for the wrong things, and that her rebellion could be put to much better use.
Zane was a much better man than Serena’s father, or her original intended Thomas. I hoped all the way through that Serena would actually develop feelings for Zane, as he was so much better for her than anyone else. That being said though, there wasn’t really much romance in this story.
I thought the idea of ‘ownership’ of women was a pretty shocking one, and I’m sure no woman would really want to be owned that way. The way that the women were traded and sold, and ownership transferred along with possessions was terrible, and the way that women who were no longer wanted were ‘tarnished’ and used as slaves so that the husband could get himself a more desirable wife was also just bad!
I did like the storyline in this book, although at times I did think it could maybe have moved a little quicker. I did think that it was pretty original too, and the only thing it really reminded me of was ‘The Selection’, although I think that was more to do with the pretty dresses, and Serena bending the rules a bit, rather than the storyline.
I really did like this though, it’s nice to read a fantasy story where there pretty dresses, and no map required! I will definitely be looking out for the sequel when it comes out.
Overall; a beautiful fantasy story about Warlocks and a girl who will fight to no longer be owned.
8 out of 10.