Let me just fangirl here for a moment before we get to the nitty-gritty: This books had one of the hottest scenes in YA without anything actually happening. It will leave you breathless. It's epic! (and I mean ya people... not books we call YA but aren't- thinking SJM here)
I enjoy reading other people's reviews before writing my own, to get a little extra perspective I suppose. Not this time! What is wrong with you people? I had to turn away...
There is no girl on girl hate! The book reminds me of the Jane Austen novels, of a time where marriages were arranged and woman could not choose their path in life. A time where social status was more important than intelligence. Yes, most of the girls do not like Sage, but it is a class issue. Sage is seen as a poor commoner that does not deserve to be with the noble girls. It was a reality of our society, why shy away from it? It's part of our history, not a girl on girl hate thing. More so, have you worked with teens? Teen girls can be horribly mean. It is a reality of our world... And it is not like all of the book was like that either... One of the girls actually becomes very close friends with our Sage. All in all I loved the book's message: Girls can be different, they can be and do what they want! They can be fighters like our Sage, business woman like our matchmaker, doted wives like our other girls are training to be and WANT to be, or something else entirely.
Sage was a great character! Free spirited, intelligent, brave. But also young, and therefore naive. Her interactions with the matchmaker made me laugh, it was obvious that the matchmaker was trying to help her grow out of her misconceptions and naivete, and at times even narrow minded ways. Sage felt very real to me. She was a girl that wanted more than the society she lived in were willing to give, but also a girl who still needed to learn things are not always black and white. I loved her fascination with the army and curious mind. It made the beginning of the book rather fun to read since it confused the soldiers so very much as to her true intentions.
To off-set her naivete there were the soldiers. All just as young but brave man that have seen too much to still be as ingenuous. It gets confusing with them (and I can't tell you why without giving away some of the story), but I liked them all and was heartbroken at the end.
The plot twists were amazingly well written. I got so confused as to who was who when the plot started to unfold. BRILLIANT! The plot is also constructed masterfully. All the military plans and actions are clever and well thought out by the author. There was enough action to keep you on edge but not so much as to overwhelm you as well.
The romance was slow burning. There was no insta-love. They were friends first, and I liked that. I thought that ship was gonna sink more times than I can count. So much happens! Their story is cray cray 🤣
I am not giving it a 5 because I want more... and since this has become a trilogy I suppose my wishes will be granted!
I guess the book also gets crap for not being tactful towards the skin color descriptions. I just laughed at that. An author doesn't include diversity: people complain he/she didn't. An author does include: people complain about how he/she did it. There are 7 billion people in this world, there are therefore more than a handful of ways of describing -to use the authors terminology- people with darker skin.
I strongly encourage you to read this if you enjoy YA romance and Spy Novels!