Bound by blood.
Tempted by desire.
Unleashed by destiny.

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.

After much deliberation, I finally was able to settle on a rating which is 3.5 stars. Which means I liked it and enjoyed it but didn’t love it.

Anyway, this was my first SJM ever. I know. I’m late to the party. But hey, better late than never plus this was touted as her first adult urban fantasy novel. I love urban fantasy so it makes sense that I would start my SJM journey with this book.

SPOILER ALERT…

Bryce is a half fae, half human who lives in Crescent City. Crescent City is kind of like one of the prosperous provinces of this huge empire. Think Roman Empire but with magic. Bryce’s life changed when her best friend and her pack was murdered. This sets off a series of event that brought Bryce and Hunt together.

Hunt is an angel but he’s a slave angel. He participated in a rebellion to overthrow the governing body of the empire and lost. So now he’s a slave. He’s working for Gabriel to “earn” his freedom by killing whatever or whoever Gabriel wants killed.

Anyway, Hunt and Bryce were tasked to find the people responsible for killing her best friend and her pack as well as the rash of killings that followed right after. They’re also looking for this magic horn that’s going to open the portal that separates the living and the monsters and they have to find it before someone uses it to open the gate.

The book sets this up in the first 5 or 7 chapters or so, which is to say that the book took its time. I actually did a lot of skimming during these parts because there was just a lot of info dumps.

But anyway, I did like Bryce (BUT THE NAME IS UGH). I’m seeing comments that say she’s typical SJM heroine but that didn’t really bother me ’cause I liked her. A lot. Especially when she’s interacting with other characters like Hunt and Rune and others.

I also want to commend SJM for the way she dealt with grief in this book. It’s one of the highlight for me and IMO, it’s where the book really shined.

The romance was also good. It fizzled out for me towards the end but the slow burn and the angst was great. I enjoyed Hunt and Bryce’s chemistry.

I also enjoyed the secondary characters. They’re well developed and their interactions with Bryce and Hunt made the book fun to read. I mean, sure. I couldn’t remember or spell all their names BUT I want to know more about them.

There’s two particular relationships that I wanted to read more about. Bryce and Rune’s relationship as well as Ruhn and that Witch Queen who is absolutely my favorite character already despite not having a lot of page time.

There’s one particular relationship that’s so important to Bryce and the book in general. And it made me sad because it didn’t end happily and I wish this character was not fridged so that Bryce could fulfill her destiny but it happened and I understand why it had to happen but it still made me sad.

Which brings me to the not so good parts.

The length. 800+ pages felt exactly like 800+ pages. Lots of repetitiveness in the plot and the dialogue sometimes goes round and round and just when you think they’ve finally reached the conclusion, you see the same issue repeated at page 300.

Speaking of repetitiveness, I wanted to stick a fork in my eye at all the ‘alphahole’ and ‘the male’ and ‘the female’ thing that SJM uses in her books. I get it! This is paranormal but do you really have to use male and female to describe everyone all the freaking time? 800+ pages of Bryce calling everyone alphahole was too much.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the world building, and the Crescent City world in general either. It’s boring. And I’m not just talking about the info dump was happened like in the first 50% of the book but the world itself. SJM had angels, shifters, fae, witches, humans, vampires—you name it, she had it in this book but the world still felt so benign and uninteresting.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve read way too many UF already but SJM’s world just bored me to no end. The magic system was a mess and arbitrary. If you’re a UF reader and you’re expecting something unique, then I’m sorry because you won’t find it in this book. This is pretty standard UF minus the personality.

The Roman Empire-esque style of government was an interesting piece especially with the whole, rebellion thing but again, I didn’t feel like SJM did it justice. I mean, she used slavery and imperialism in her plot but didn’t really try to examine those two elements and how it affected her world and her characters.

TBH, I just don’t think SJM has the capacity to write about these things and it not ending up being trite. It lacked nuance and frankly, it was pretty much a wasted opportunity.

She tried to sort of say oppression and slavery is is bad and people should be equal whether they have magic or not except that the heroine was able to single handedly saved the day because of her magic and her blood.

And the whole slavery thing was just glossed over and Hunt who was a slave was suddenly not a slave anymore, not because they were able to topple the system of slavery or abolished it. No, he got free because of magic and he was the only one who did! But yay, I guess.

I’m probably nitpicking this one to death but those things really annoyed me especially since the underlying theme of the book seems to be that love makes everything possible. Which is a nice sentiment but the book literally ended with the same way it started. Nothing has changed except that Bryce’s boyfriend is free