Friday, July 5, 2019

ARC Review: The Marked Prince (The Darkest Court #2) by M.A. Grant

The Marked Prince (The Darkest Court, #2)
Torn between two worlds, desperate to save one love.

The Summer Court is nothing like Sebastian remembers. The oppressed lower classes are drained of their magick, and around every corner political intrigues threaten an already unstable regime. Sebastian’s only hope of surviving the Court and bringing home Prince Lyne’s traitorous brother lies with Duine, a magickless Unseelie servant desperate to win his freedom. A servant for whom Sebastian, an estranged Seelie royal himself, is developing a dangerous and deepening affection. 

But behind the mask Duine wears are secrets as dangerous as what’s smoldering between them. And the more Duine helps Sebastian navigate Court life, the more it becomes clear the servant is not who he appears to be. How he came to be the whipping boy of one of the most powerful and corrupt faeries in the Summer Court is a truth Sebastian is determined to uncover, even if it puts him at odds with the very people who can lead him to the missing Unseelie prince. 

When a powerful enemy steps from the shadows, it could spell the end not just for the Unseelie, but for both faerie Courts. Sebastian must choose: complete the mission and earn his place among the Unseelie who took him in, or risk his very life to ensure freedom for the man he loves.

Todd's rating:

GAH! There was wave after wave after wave of bad guys and fresh, new challenges to overcome in this one, folks.

Since reading "Prince of Air and Darkness" around Christmas of 2018, I hadn't really thought much about Sebastian, thinking of him only as the fairly-quiet, outsider, college roommate of Finn and Roark, but oh boy, was I ever wrong on that account.

Seb's history with both the Summer and Winter Courts was much more involved than I ever could've imagined, and as those details were divulged, I found myself completely riveted and dying to discover more.

He’s so open, so honest in his emotions. He’ll never survive unless he learns to harden himself, to hide himself. I should be disgusted by his weakness. Instead, I’m drawn to him because of it.
Duine and Sláin, though? Wow, I didn't see that coming at all. That plot point blew me away and left my jaw dropping, but I don't dare say anything else.

And then there was Aoife, High Princess of the Summer Court, Oberon and Tatiana's eldest daughter. OMMFG. What. A. Fucking. C-WORD. (And I only reserve that term for a very special, truly-awful few, but trust me, she earned it.)

Aoife's level of remorseless cruelty, the things she did to get what she wanted, all while hiding behind a glamor of innocent, caring beauty, I found it all extremely shocking that someone that vile could still inspire loyalty from her people.

I was thrilled to see that this story included more Finn and Roark, mostly toward the very beginning and the very end, with them still very happy, but also in extreme danger.
“He’s kind of protective of you.”

He growls and I wince when frost covers my hand. “So protective he’d rather die than make me choose between him and the Court.”

“And you would choose--?”

The look Roark gives me is pure confusion, as if my question is so stupid he can’t believe I asked. “Him.”

“Even if--”

“Every time.”
In an attempt to save Finn from certain-death, Roark requested that Sebastian go on an undercover mission that could possibly avert the coming war, which was how Seb found himself behind enemy lines and surrounded by danger on all sides.

This book had much more world building than book 1, which I thoroughly enjoyed, as we finally got a first-hand look at the beautiful, but highly-political inner workings of the Summer Court.

The pacing of the story was pretty spot-on, but my only real complaint was that, like a lot of fantasy stories, there were so many problems facing the MC's that there wasn't a lot of time for truly deep feels to be slowly and carefully worked through. There was always something around the next corner ready to slit their throats.

This story did have a bit of a separation for Duine and Seb, but unlike usual, I didn't mind it so much here. Their time apart actually added to the story, instead of coming across as part of a "do this when you write a novel" check list.

In regards to steam, the book only had one short scene, which wasn't overly-explicit, but I wasn't looking for sexy bits at all, so it was one more than I'd expected.

I'm not sure exactly why, but while reading this book, I kept having flashbacks to the "A Captive Prince" series, possibly due to all of the gruesome torture that Duine, as a prisoner of war, had to endure. Dunno, but it was "a thing" for me. I'm weird like that, I guess.

As the book ended, the war still wasn't over, but Seb and Duine had made their feelings and commitment to one another known, so I'm counting that as them being well on their way to an HEA -- surviving the war withstanding.
“I can’t offer you anything but a broken kingdom.”

“I’m a broken prince,”
he counters. He swallows and offers me the shy smile I thought I’d never see again. “But whatever is left of me is yours.”
I'd rate this book at around 4.25 stars and recommend it for fans of M/M fantasy.

My ARC copy of the book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair, unbiased review.

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