This was truly a whole new step up what I expected. And watching Kestrel and Arin both separated with little chance to get together. And for once, it is out of force that Kestrel only ends up being engaged, and it is a political alliances.
Unlike the romance which dominated the previous book, here is fully court intrigue. Not a lot of time to romance if both of the couple are separated with things they have to do, and cannot be any means be seen together. Kestrel isn’t falling in love with the Prince, their alliance is solely for political reasons.
As for Kestrel here, she isn’t wholly good, she is selfless beyond belief. But that just makes her an intriguing character, where we see her love for her father outweigh that of even Arin. And seeing her intelligence here, which was spent mostly outwitting the Emperor. And her love for her father made her give a really sound but also ruthless piece of advice, which is logical and makes sense.
To me, I guess the previous book was too focused on the romance. And now with Kestrel having almost no ability to see Arin to have any romantic scenes, the entire story became a lot more tighter and focused on politics and the dangers of secrets and possible outcomes.
As for the Emperor, even if I didn’t really get to know him, I guess from his presence and actions is that of a true conqueror. Not stupid, as he chose to led Herran only to turn back on his decision. One which Kestrel helped, and allied her with his son because she would one day rule and the Empire has a successor.
But overall, I really enjoy the novel because it was genuinely surprising. The ending really is, it places Kestrel in a really dangerous position and Arin finally able to get an alliance that he can want.