(I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review).
(This review may contain spoilers).
I would, ideally, give this book 4.5 stars. I did find it a bit difficult to get into at the start, but as the book progressed, I found it easier to become absorbed into the storyline and began caring about the characters.
The idea of the Tournament of Hearts is a frightening one, but I felt it was quite realistic that a society would develop that kind of ritual in a belief to keep themselves protected. What I would have liked to see was how that all came about – one of the characters thinks about how he lived through a time the sacrifice wasn’t gone through with.
Although certainly not a conventional warrior, I felt Neven worked really well as a hero and central character in this book. Although he did have certain otherworldly abilities, I felt the author did a good job of showing how those developed… as well as letting him experience the consequences of certain actions; and having to rely on other people for help. I strongly dislike books where one character is ridiculously overpowered, to the point that other characters become obsolete… and I felt this book did a good job of going the other way.
All four of the characters who were meant to fight in the tournament were intriguing and it was interesting to see that Neven would potentially have to face his friend. Although the blurb of the book suggested that much of the main focus would be on the tournament, I liked that I got to see some of the ordinary, everyday lives of the people of Hamelin.
I have to be honest and say that my favourite character in this book was Smoke. Right from his first appearance, I was drawn to him and found him a really interesting being. There were certain scenes that made me really cringe where he was involved… but there were other scenes, particularly towards the end, that made me feel quite emotional.
As for other favourite characters… I think Neven and his two friends are tied for that. As the book progressed on, I enjoyed reading about the true camaraderie and brotherhood that existed between them. I also appreciated the fact that the author created ‘bad’ characters who had some potentially redeeming qualities.
I’m definitely interested in reading the next book in this series. I’m really looking forward to seeing where the characters will go now.