I am the minority here with this rating. I loved the first book SO much. This book was not what I expected at all and a bit of a disappointment. At the same time, it was really good plot wise. If we didn't have the failed romantic issues in this book, it would have been so much better.
In this book, Kestrel and Arin are just so frustrating. Okay, maybe just stupid. I don't know. Kestrel is supposed to be so smart and cunning but when it comes to her love life, she's the complete opposite. The lack of communication and them jumping the complete opposite conclusions ASAP, was driving me insane. That is what knocked the stars off this book. So far, what they have shown me is that they cannot communicate. At. All. That's a horrible start to any relationship. Arin's pretty stupid for trying to get her to be his, when she's engaged and going to be the next Empress. Then he doesn't take the hints she's trying to give them when he's trying to confess his love again. Instead of realizing that she's in a dangerous place that they could be overheard, he ignores all her attempts and takes it as her not wanting him. Then when he lets go of the sword. What an idiot. I would rather this book have 0 romance than this. It was just annoying.
Otherwise, the secrecy and political war that Kestrel is involved in, was fascinating. At the same time, she's not using her head and strategizing correctly! She knows how the Emperor feels about Herrani and yet goes around supporting them publicly and hanging out with them. When you already have rumors going around, you have to be smarter about that! This is what I don't understand. The whole series so far, she's being pegged as this super smart strategist but when it comes to her own life, she's clueless.
The best part of this book, was when Arin and Kestrel are separated. They both shined and got things done that I don't think they could do together. They made huge strides to try and protect their people.
Also, this book is a really slow read. Even if you are trying to get through it quickly, you won't. It was just impossible and it took more much longer than I anticipated. I don't even know why. The plot was smooth and interesting. I didn't really get bored or anything but it took me a while to get through this.
The cliffhanger is crazy. I can't wait to see what happens. I'm going to hope that the next book will be just as great as the first one. This book was good but I was just disappointed.