• Page Count: 448
  • Release Date: June 5, 2018
  • My Rating: 4 stars

Not you without me, not me without you.

Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.

As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what’s right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved.

Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen. For fans of Graceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance.

I have been waiting forever for a YA retelling of Tristan and Iseult! Then my enthusiasm went to a whole new level when I saw hints of the Mabinogion in here, too. (Disclaimer: I am obsessed with Celtic languages & mythology, so my rating probably focused on different aspects of the book than others might). I thought the names and the author’s note in the back explaining her choices were really clever & fascinating.

There were a ton of elements of this story I really loved! Aside from the Celtic setting and influences, there were pirates, magic, a prince, and a relatable main character who slowly gained more agency throughout the story. The writing was good, but the tone and characters definitely felt a bit on the younger side (not that there’s anything wrong with that… it just wasn’t a perfect fit for me). The plot also didn’t get as deep into the story as I would’ve liked. It kind of skimmed the surface and stuck with the drama when I wanted more depth from every character and the amazing world.

In the beginning the princess (who feels confined by her title and wants MORE out of life) gets drunk with Branwen and giggles about boys. A lot more like that ensues. Basically, the people of Iveriu (Ireland) and Kernyv (Cornwall) are enemies. Branwen’s parents were killed by raiders and she hates the enemy, but then saves one who washes up on shore… it’s Tristan. You know the drill. In the end, she has to choose between Tristan and her land.

You definitely don’t need to be super familiar with Tristan & Iseult or the Mabinogion to read this, but the connections were my favorite part because I adore retellings!! I also love how many YA Celtic & Norse stories are coming out this spring about girls who are torn between their people and the “enemy.” If you like this one then check out Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young, Beyond a Darkened Shore by Jessica Leake, or… ugh I’m forgetting the last one I read. But a few others that come to mind are Between Two Fires by Mark Noce, Deception’s Princess, and Warrior Princess!

Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC.

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