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Melissa de la Cruz (www.melissa-delacruz.com) is the author of many best-selling novels, including all the books in the Blue Bloods series: Blue Bloods, Masquerade, Revelations, The Van Alen Legacy, Keys to the Repository, Misguided Angel, Bloody Valentine, Lost in Time, and Gates of Paradise. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her husband and daughter.
It's the season in London, and eligible bachelors and ladies alike are clamoring for the best parties in advance of the grand ball, where Marie, the intelligent but sickly heir to the English throne, and Leopold, the charismatic prince of Prussia, will formalize their politically necessary engagement. Marie, whose heart belongs to a lowly soldier of the realm, dreads the marriage. Meanwhile, Aelwyn, Marie's childhood friend and the daughter of the kingdom's sorcerer, has arrived at the palace after refining her powers in Avalon. Can Aelwyn help Marie escape her duty? De la Cruz sets the stage for a compelling romantic drama with potent political overtones for the majority of the book, but the last 50 pages careen through a series of clumsy reveals to a less-than-happily-ever-after ending, which would have been much more satisfying had it been drawn out in a second volume. That said, there is still much to like here, from the steamy romances and froufrou fashions to the empowering female characters standing up for what they deserve. - Sarah Hunter Booklist Online" In 1429 the English army, with the assistance of its astounding magicians, defeats France. Five-hundred-and-fifty years later, it is the most powerful empire in the world. America is part of this empire because it lost the Insurrection of 1776. Queen Eleanor the Second rules with the help of her Head Merlin. Her daughter, Princess Marie-Victoria, must now marry Prince Leopold, heir to the Prussian throne. This story is told from several different points of view: Marie-Victoria; Aelwyn, the Merlin's daughter; Wolfgang, the prince's brother; Ronan, an American heiress; and Isabelle, Leopold's former fianc e. The story is filled with romance and all of its possible entanglements, mystery, and intrigue, plus magic! Readers of de la Cruz's Bluebloods series (Disney-Hyperion) or The Witches of East End (Hyperion, 2011) will not be disappointed. The characters are fully-formed and although the viewpoint changes with each chapter, the storyline is easily followed. Linda DeVore, Educational Reviewer, Casa Grande, Arizona [Editor's Note: Available in e-book format.] Recommended Library Media Connection" 3Q 3P S Marie-Victoria, princess and heir to the Franco-British Empire, is expected to marry Prince Leopold of Prussia to cement the truce between their warring nations. He seems perfect to everyone, but Marie remembers him from childhood as a bully, and he is worse as an adult. She prefers Gill, one of her guards. Aelwyn is the bastard daughter of one-thousand-year-old Merlin, who is the power behind the throne. Aelwyn is destined to serve Marie as her mage, although they were brought up almost as sisters. Isabelle of France, engaged to Leopold from birth, is forced to release him so he can make the political match. He continues to use her for sex even after their engagement is ended, in spite of her protests. Ronan Astor from New York has come to London to find a rich husband to repair the family fortunes. On the journey, she falls in love with Wolf, Leopold's brother, masquerading as a commoner. She turns down his proposal, not realizing that he is everything she is looking for. The cast of characters and their intertwining relationships are complicated, but de la Cruz focuses each chapter on a different character, which helps to keep them straight. The intrigue and plots in the royal court change these relationships in unexpected ways, and the end will surprise readers. This book will appeal to historical romance readers, more than to sword-and-sorcery fantasy readers.-Deborah L. Dubois. VOYA" Gr 9 Up In an alternate 20th century, the world is controlled by a united Franco-British Empire and backed by a Merlin. Aelwn Myrddyn, the beautiful and powerful daughter of Merlin, returns from exile to find that her childhood friend, Marie-Victoria, the sickly daughter of the Empire's Queen, will be engaged to Prussia's Prince Leopold in order to solidify a peace treaty. Isabelle of Orleans, royalty from the formerly independent France, is forced to break off her engagement to Leopold. Tragically, she had been raped by her guardian as a child and is continuously taken advantage of by Leopold. The royal engagement has made London's coming-of-age season all the more glamorous, and for Ronan Astor, a feisty New Yorker invited to attend, it means a chance to marry rich and save her family's decaying status. On her way to Europe, she meets Wolf, Leopold's younger brother. Wolf is a total flirt but, unlike his brother, has strong morals. Bestselling author de la Cruz expertly writes from five different perspectives, allowing readers to emotionally invest in the protagonists' lives. Her vivid descriptions are just enough to transport us into the world without bogging down the narrative. This character-driven novel has fabulous balls, glitzy gowns, and plenty of drama and plot twists, making it hard to put down. Unresolved issues hint at future books. Marissa Lieberman, East Orange Public Library, NJ SLJ" The lives of five teens intersect in turn-of-the-20th-century London, the capital of the Franco-British Empire. Aelwyn Myrddin, daughter of the Merlin, the magical power behind the throne, has just returned from exile in Avalon. Princess Marie-Victoria, sickly daughter of the 150-year-old Queen Eleanor, reluctantly awaits her marriage to Leopold, Kronprinz of Prussia and wielder of the magical weapon that brought the mighty empire to its knees. Wolf-short for Beowulf-Leopold's rapscallion younger brother, has just boarded the Saturnia, on his way to London from New York. Ronan Astor, beautiful scion of the impoverished colonial family, is also on the Saturnia, hoping to snag a rich, titled lord. And Isabelle de Valois, whose family would rule France had the British not defeated the witch Jeanne of Arkk 500 years earlier, heads across the channel to salvage her engagement to Leopold. Intrigue and heartbreak ensue. De la Cruz effectively plaits real-world history together with what-ifs both magical and political to create a fizzy period soap opera. So much attention has been spent on worldbuilding, in fact, that the actual plot takes forever to start and then resolves both abruptly and all too conveniently. Moreover, incompletely explained inconsistencies with regard to the length of Aelwyn's exile will drive some readers crazy. Readers captivated by the setting may enjoy this novel-length setup; they will hope for more plot in the next installment. (Historical fantasy. 14 & up) Kirkus" De la Cruz (Frozen) launches a series set in the late 1920s of an alternate Earth where magic is real and the Franco-British Empire holds dominion over much of the world. While Princess Marie-Victoria faces imminent betrothal to Prussian Kronprinz Leopold, her childhood friend Aelwyn has returned from Avalon to take up a position as a court magician. American socialite Ronan Astor plans to use the season to land a wealthy, noble husband to revitalize her family's finances, and French noble Isabelle hopes to steal her lover Leopold away from his future wife. Romance, intrigue, betrayal, and magic are interwoven in this complex and somewhat overwrought drama, which also plays out in secret love affairs, hidden identities, and desperate conniving. The magic-dominated society de la Cruz creates has a certain faded charm-part Gatsby, part Downton Abbey-but the ending suffers from pacing problems, with several developments and resolutions taking place offstage or in exposition. Likewise, the use of sex as a tool and a weapon lends an unsettling undercurrent to the story. Ages 14 up. PW" In this alternative history, the Franco-British Empire dominates the globe, backed by the Queen's Merlin, a formidable magician with a stranglehold on the world's magic. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, however, the small country of Prussia makes a move toward rebellion, and the Queen and her Merlin must arrange a marriage between the heirs of the two kingdoms for peace. While Eleanor, the physically frail but intellectually sharp daughter of the Queen, and Leopold, the domineering but charming Prussian prince, are at the center of the deal, they're far from the only ones affected. There's Isabelle, a French countess and Leo's lover; Wolf, Leo's younger brother and the reckless "spare heir"; Astor, an American heiress who has caught Wolf's eye; Gill, Eleanor's childhood companion and true love; and most importantly, Aelwyn, the Merlin's daughter and the one destined to protect and serve the throne now the Queen and the Merlin are nearing death. Political intrigue is the name of the game here, and as the focus shifts among the younger characters and their various schemes to get what they want (Leo wants to keep his mistress, Eleanor wants to run away with Gill, Aelwyn wants the crown for herself), de la Cruz expertly lays out clues to alert the reader to the fact that for all their planning, these youngsters are nonetheless going to fall prey to the larger plans of their politically savvy elders. Unfortunately, any authorial restraint falls completely apart in the last thirty pages or so, as stunning revelation after stunning (and sometimes illogical) revelation is made in a cascade of overkill. Still, secrets, sex, and stylish clothes tend to be a winning combination, so hand this to readers who like their costume dramas really dramatic. KQG BCCB" "The historical fantasy has it all: preening royalty, a touch of magic, and dramatic betrayal. What's not to love?"--Teen Vogue "This character-driven novel has fabulous balls, glitzy gowns, and plenty of drama and plot twists, making it hard to put down."--School Library Journal