Rating: 5 Stars
Synopsis via Goodreads:
Princess Snow is missing.
Her home planet is filled with violence and corruption at the hands of King Matthias and his wife as they attempt to punish her captors. The king will stop at nothing to get his beloved daughter back—but that’s assuming she wants to return at all.
Essie has grown used to being cold. Temperatures on the planet Thanda are always sub-zero, and she fills her days with coding and repairs for the seven loyal drones that run the local mines.
When a mysterious young man named Dane crash-lands near her home, Essie agrees to help the pilot repair his ship. But soon she realizes that Dane’s arrival was far from accidental, and she’s pulled into the heart of a war she’s risked everything to avoid. With the galaxy’s future—and her own—in jeopardy, Essie must choose who to trust in a fiery fight for survival.
The synopsis above is a good example how it can make a reader come to expect one thing, but end up with something entirely different.
From this synopsis, I was expecting to be introduced to some brat of a princess who had everything, and then is suddenly kidnapped in a way that makes be question character(s) intellect, and then being taken somewhere ridiculously cold only to find a (hot, attractive, oh-so desirable) boy who just so happens to crash land near where she’s being held. Against all reason, she helps him in secret until he tells her that he’s actually there to rescue her, oh beautiful Princess Snow, and they shall overcome the odds in stupid ways and live happily-ever-after.
Twas not the case.
(Thank you, thank you God.)
Instead, I get introduced to this hot little ass-kicking heroine who was not, in fact, kidnapped, but ran away all those years ago. Now, eking out a meager living in the most undesirable world there is, Essie has no other desires than to live out a peaceful, quiet, secluded life with her tinkering droids that she just so happened to build in her spare time (because she’s a freakin’ genius, apparently) and stay far, far away from her royal family and heritage. And for many good reasons.
Essie is not a spoiled brat. She does not desire silk and shiny colored clothes or status or anything else from the life she was born into could allot. And this isn’t just the woes of a spoiled princess who’s never gotten her hands dirty and who is just too bored in her lavish life to understand how lucky she is . . . No, Essie has been on her own for eight years, had been stranded on the roughest world there is when she was a child, and had to learn how to survive by street fighting and building droids to save countless lives in the mines. She is no helpless maiden. She understands bitter, hard labor.
When the ship crashes near her home one night, she helps the lone pilot, who is, indeed, a beautiful young man. But she doesn’t get swoony over him. He’s good-looking, but she just wants him gone. She likes her secluded life. This isn’t her running from her responsibilities as a princess, but her way of surviving. Because going home means death . . . and worse. Much worse, if I’m being completely honest. There’s a very good reason she keeps a wide berth between herself and any man around her, and Dane is no exception.
“Knocked out, helpless in a room full of drunk men.
I splashed icy water on my face, forcing deep breaths to keep both the memory and the panic attack at bay. Nothing had happened. Not then, and not today.”
I loved that Essie is all reason and logic. She gets scared and frustrated and angry, but she can hide it when she needs to. And she takes those emotions and puts them to good work, by plotting and carrying out plans. She’s wicked in some ways. She doesn’t mope when she’s taken by Dane to be used as leverage. Instead, she crashed his own ship because there’s no way in hell she’s going home to mommy and daddy after eight years. She’s fantastic.
“Brave is being scared and doing what needs to be done anyway”
Essie also has some real character development going on. You don’t see that a whole lot anymore in YA books, but Essie wants to survive – that’s all she’s been doing for the past eight years. But when she comes to find out it’s either her life or countless others, she’s the first one to surrender herself . . . in a way. She understands that her one life is not worth countless others in a war that is all a farce, but she’s also not going to throw her hands up in the air and give up. If she’s going down, she’s bringing mommy-dearest and father-kindness down with her.
And I’ve not even talked about Dane. He’s everything I want in a YA love interest. He’s not prideful or annoying or all buff. He’s desperate in rescuing his father, and he’ll do anything he needs to do to save him. He makes decisions that make me angry and frustrated. And I love him for it. Because while he made me impossibly frustrated many times, I also understood why he made the decisions he did. They’re the kind of decisions that I don’t agree with, but I also think that if I was in his shoes I would have done the same things. It doesn’t excuse what he does, not by a long shot, but I understand it, and that makes a difference.
At times I truly wanted to break his nose. Not because he’s prideful or angsty or anything like that, but because Essie sometimes wanted to break his nose, and I was feeling everything she was.
And then there were the times when there was romance (not many, mind you) and they just broke my heart. I loved those few moments, because they were perfect and I loved that there weren’t, in fact, that many of them. Because when they did happen, they were just that much more magical.
“Not that complicated. I think I’m in love with you, Essie. But I also think you’re not ready. I shouldn’t have sprung it on you like that, so I decided to take it at your speed.”
I also loved that while Essie isn’t heartless and she knows she’s no coldhearted murderer, that doesn’t mean she still won’t do it if push comes to shove.
This is no light-hearted fairytale. It’s a Snow White re-telling, but Essie is no defenseless princess. Even if she’s kidnapped or has a gun pressed to her head, she hasn’t grown up in the most bloodthirsty world for nothing, and she’s more likely to break someone’s nose before they can keep an upper hand when it comes to her. Dane sure as heck knows that.
Even when she’s in a very bad position, even when she’s had most of her options taken from her, Essie doesn’t let her pride takeover. So often I read about characters who get kidnapped and refuse to eat or drink or take advantage of the clothes or other things they may have been given by their captor simply because they want to be as difficult as a prisoner as possible. But while I understand that sentiment, it’s smarter to take advantage of anything given to them, and Essie does just that. She doesn’t let her pride rule her, or any of her other emotions. Instead, she’s thinking about how she’d going to kill the enemy while she smiles and talks.
Essie sees herself as a pawn in this royal, bloodthirsty game. She knows she is. Both to her own father and to the Exiles, the people Dane is working with. Princess or not, she is disposable, and the only way she can win the game is to make herself valuable. So she does. And she flips the game on its head.
She is a cage-fighter, so don’t get too close – she bites.
The romance is light, but powerful. There is no crap “love can overcome the world.” No. If Essie is standing between saving Dane and saving not just her world, but all the others, she’s going to save the worlds. She’ll hate herself for it, but knows it’s what comes first. Her priorities line up.
This was beyond refreshing to read.