Circle of Shadows by Evelyn Skye
Sora can move as silently as a ghost and hurl throwing stars with lethal accuracy. Her gemina, Daemon, can win any physical fight blindfolded and with an arm tied behind his back. They are apprentice warriors of the Society of Taigas—marked by the gods to be trained in magic and the fighting arts to protect the kingdom of Kichona.
As their graduation approaches, Sora and Daemon look forward to proving themselves worthy of belonging to the elite group—but in a kingdom free of violence since the Blood Rift Rebellion many years ago, it’s been difficult to make their mark. So when Sora and Daemon encounter a strange camp of mysterious soldiers while on a standard scouting mission, they decide the only thing to do to help their kingdom is to infiltrate the group.Taking this risk will change Sora’s life forever—and lead her on a mission of deception that may fool everyone she’s ever loved.
A long while ago, in a book box I got The Crown’s Game, and it surprised me because I absolutely loved it. Why am I saying this? Because it is due to that first book by Evelyn Skye that I went into this one without any doubts.
The setting is inspired by feudal Japan (or at least has a definite feel to it), and we follow Sora and Daemon, who are gemina’s and part of the elite warriors that protect Kichona and the Empress.
Sora is crazy reckless despite being naturally gifted with magic, and good at everything. The kind of person that wins at life and they still don’t make the most of it, because they are fine being less. (Not that it is bad, just that it gives those that try hard, a feeling of talent wasted). Great setting for her being underestimated when they witness some dodgy “festival” type of thing during their holiday week.
The main story explores Sora and the fact that her little sister died when the twin of the Empress (Prince Gin) followed a legend. If he sacrificed 200 willing hearts to a God, then expand the Empire/Kingdom he may attain paradise on Earth (or Kichona in this specific story). He devoutly believes this is his destiny, and is willing to sacrifice everything, including his people, to give them this paradise.
However, every record of anyone attempting to do so ha failed and there hasn’t been any paradise earned yet. But still Prince Gin thinks he can do it (because of course, he’s special and all that).
Anyway, we explore several relationships in the story, and something Evelyn does in her books (and probably why I liked that first book) is to explore the inner motivations and reasonings behind the character. Why did they do what they did? What part of them told them this was the correct decision, why?
This is done in a neat way, without over explaining or boring you. And it was wonderful to explore the friendships, relationships, and dynamics of the characters in the book.
There’s a lot more I’d like to include in this review, but that would be adding too many spoilers. However, this was an enjoyable read and I am intrigued about what comes next (because the ending was not exactly what I expected and now I need more).
The Crown’s Game and Circle of Shadows, because they’re good. And if you’re into Russian inspired books (what? it is part of The Crown’s Game) then I can also recommend the Winternight trilogy, by Katherin Arden, which starts with The Bear and the Nightingale.
Disclaimer: I was gifted this book for free from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. I still preordered before I received it, and you can clearly see this is a proof in the picture (because my shiny new copy hasn’t arrived yet). All Amazon links are affiliate links (but I haven’t yet received even a penny for them so people probably don’t buy with it, nevertheless I still persist on adding a helpful link to the book).