When seventeen-year-old Nedra Brysstain leaves her home in the rural, northern territories of Lunar Island to attend the prestigious Yugen Academy, she has only one goal in mind: learn the trade of medicinal alchemy. A scholarship student matriculating with the children of Lunar Island’s wealthiest and most powerful families, Nedra doesn’t quite fit in with the other kids at Yugen, who all look down on her.
All, except for Greggori “Grey” Astor. Grey is immediately taken by the brilliant and stubborn Nedra, who he notices is especially invested in her studies. And that’s for a good reason: a deadly plague has been sweeping through the North, and it’s making its way toward the cities. With her family’s life–and the lives of all of Lunar Island’s citizens–on the line, Nedra is determined to find a cure for the plague.
Grey and Nedra continue to grow closer, but as the sickness spreads and the body count rises, Nedra becomes desperate to find a cure. Soon, she finds herself diving into alchemy’s most dangerous corners–and when she turns to the most forbidden practice of all, necromancy, even Grey might not be able to pull her from the darkness.
Alchemy and necromancy – that’s what initially drew me to this book. Also the beautiful cover. A protagonist with all the best intentions finds herself walking the fine line separating light from darkness – it’s an intriguing hook.
Nedra’s transformation from a dedicated student determined to find a cure for the plague to a desperate alchemist who turns to necromancy is fascinating, and done to perfection. So many times I wanted to yell at her to consider the consequences of her actions – but if she did, I guess there wouldn’t have been much of a story. It’s difficult to like her character by the end of the book, but an excellent portrayal at what grief can do to a person.
Grey is a sweet love interest – and it’s a case of insta-love, but his character doesn’t add much to the story. He attempts to be a moral compass for Nedra, but she’s an obstinate girl.
There are a couple of twists toward the end – one I’d figured out, and the other a bit of a surprise. The beginning is more of a slow burn, explaining world-building and magic, but the pace picks up toward the middle. I’ll be interested to see where this series goes in the second book. This book is scheduled for publication September 25th, 2018.
Thanks to Penguin First to Read and the publisher for the ARC.