In this young adult fantasy, Sage Fowler, 17, is an apprentice to a matchmaker. She was taken on in part because she herself would not be much of a “threat” to matches proposed vis-a-vis other girls – she was an orphan with no property of her own; she wasn’t into dressing up or “acting like” a girl; and perhaps most importantly, she could not long maintain a subservient demeanor. Her job is to covertly help the matchmaker evaluate potential matches, which is especially important because of the upcoming Concordium during which many of the liaisons are formalized.
Because of recent unrest in the kingdom, the girls are to be escorted by a division of soldiers made up in part of members of the royal family traveling incognito. They too are interested in surreptitiously evaluating people to see if they can ferret out the intentions of one of the hosts along the route, Duke Morrow D’Amiran.
Sage spends time with the army’s cart driver, Ash Carter, with both of them using the other to gather information. They end up falling for each other, but it is based on a lie about who each of them is. Meanwhile, there is treachery afoot, and both the brides and the army are in extreme danger. The pace of action picks up, as does the possibility of romance.
Discussion: There are many caricatured aspects of this book, from the shallowness of most of the girls seeking husbands, to the beard-stroking villain. But the non-villainous characters are well-drawn, and so appealing you may overlook the cartoonish figures.
Likewise, the plot has little unpredictable about it, except perhaps for one tragic event that happens at the end, a development that took courage for the author to include.
Evaluation: While there isn’t much surprising about this story, I found it very entertaining and even edge-of-your-seat towards the end, and eagerly look forward to the next “installments.” (Initially I thought it was a standalone, but found to my surprise after completing the book that it is part one of a trilogy – surprising because the story does in fact have an “ending,” a nice feature one doesn’t always find with trilogies.). And who could resist the fabulous cover?
Published by Macmillan’s Children’s Publishing Group, 2017