Title: Mageborn (The Hollow King #1)
Author: Jessica Thorne
Genre: Fiction/ Fantasy/ YA
Favourite Quote: ‘My honour to serve. A mantra, a reminder, a promise, a curse.’
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley.*
Grace is a trained soldier at the academy, a lieutenant in every right with a team she can rely on for anything, including Kai, her assigned mageborn who she counts on more than anything for backup against the hollow mageborns murdering innocents around the kingdom. When Kai takes in too much power on a mission and becomes an uncontrollable hollow, Grace finds herself infront of prince Bastien, the Lord of Thorns himself, defying him whilst he took what was left of Kai away from her forever. With little time to grieve, her next mysterious case brings the prince to the top of her suspects list, and she can’t help but accept the challenge of confronting him, only to suddenly be summoned by the King himself and charged with being prince Bastien’s personal guard with a new title. Things quickly spin out of control when Bastien stumbles into her dreams, drugged and in danger from an unlikely foe within the castle itself. As her dream becomes reality, Grace quickly realises things aren’t all as they seem in the royal castle.
‘He leaned forward, taking something from around his neck, and then that same something fell heavy against her chest.
‘Your majesty, I…’
He leaned forward, embraced her, and Grace froze in shock.
“Keep him alive. Whatever else, I charge you, protect him. That is my primary command. He must live. To protect the mageborn. That’s what we forgot. Not just control. Protect. That was the deal we made, the Larelwynns, right at the start. Give the warrant to no one else. Keep it safe. It is just for you.’
I chose this book purely for the cover, because, well just look at it, it’s beautiful. The story itself however is sadly less to be desired. Whilst there was a good plot to the story, I felt a lot of the book was a bit lacking. The prologue was just confusing when it’s the first thing you read but clearly an important part of the history of all that is mageborn that you couldn’t get your head around until later on, then just became a constant reminder every few pages for no reason.
The kingdom is split between two beings; humans, and mageborn with powers that weren’t welcome in society because they could become hollow – unstable and dangerous. The kingdom itself is ruled by one family, the Larelwynns, two important members being the king’s cousin, Bastien, also known as The Lord of Thorns, who was cursed into looking after the mageborn throughout the kingdom, never being anything more than a dark unwanted prince feared by everyone in the kingdom, and the king himself, Marius, a kind ruler who holds the key to keeping the power of the mageborn from being corrupted whilst being the only person who could see Bastien for who he truly was. It was a nice friendship between the two which I did like, however brief. The king was dying from an unknown force which couldn’t be cured, which we were never able to figure out how or why, which was even more frustrating when we discover that Bastien has the power to literally bring the dead back to life further down the line. Go figure.
The story itself was told through two points of view, Grace and Bastien which did help bring everything together through their own perspectives. I have to say though, the main characters were disappointing, they continually frustrated me throughout the book. None of them were really relatable and the build up was missing at the best of times.
Grace was portrayed as a bad ass strong officer with a secret she kept from the world, but there were so many instances where she just appeared weak that I felt she didn’t fit the role of a protector to the heir of the crown at all. I wanted to see the powerful captain worthy to earn the title, but instead the majority of the time she either didn’t know what she was doing and tended to wing it, or she was being saved by the people around her. Her feelings for Bastien, subconscious or otherwise, tended to overrule a lot of her decision making and when she wasn’t thinking about him and his dark eyes, she was concerned with her own hidden past and secret power.
Bastien was just as infuriating, he was portrayed as this cursed dangerous mageborn surrounded by darkness, not to mention a prince who was the next heir to the throne who had more Maegen power in him than anyone, yet, he was easily overthrown at the best of times and needed to rely on the red haired captain that he couldn’t stop staring at. Yeah she was one of the first to stand up to him without backing down, but there wasn’t much more than that worthy of interest and sacrificing everything for. The romance wasn’t captivating enough, it felt rushed and flat, I didn’t feel it other than the times he crossed the barrier into the other world to save her from death assuring himself that he couldn’t go on without her, even though he barely knew her. He’s a prince for god’s sake.
What annoyed me most in the story was how Bastien just ran away from everything, even after he discovered who he truly was and able to stand up and overpower the two most powerful adversaries in the story, and he still ran away. There was just so much of the story that had the potential to be something more.
The plot becomes more exciting half way through when Grace is assigned to take Bastien a way from the kingdom. We see a lot more action and the story takes a dark turn which makes you wonder how they’ll make it out. The setting really starts to come to life when they are running through the underground tunnels, jumping rooftop whilst making their way to the slum of the city near the docks. You get to understand a bit more of the backstory and uncover the truth to the past that haunts both Grace and Bastien as well as throwing the reader into the world surrounding Celeste which is a thrill in itself. Celeste is power hungry, wonderfully insane and down right creepy. You get the sense that she holds the same disturbing characteristics as the Little Goddess in the prologue which hasn’t become clear in who she is or her role through out the story. She’s a mystery in itself that you want to unfold, but at the same time, destroy.
‘Celeste laughed, that high, giddy laugh which he knew meant she was on the edge, that any moment now she would tip over.
“I’m in the arms of the Little Goddess, in the little house, in the little room where I have been for longer than there has been a kingdom of Larelwynn. But we were gods once. We danced with the stars, we danced in the sun, in the pool of light. And in the darkness too. The deep darkness. They make you forget and forget and forget, but I remember. I remember everything. It sings to me. I want to dance again but it isn’t time yet.”‘
Based on all of this, I am curious to read some of Jessica Thorne’s other works, she’s been on my radar for a while now and I’ve heard good things about her. It would be interesting to see how the second book of the Hollow King series plays out too.
A dark and addictive fantasy read for fans of Graceling and Sarah J. Maas. The life of an orphan soldier becomes entwined with that of the mysterious heir to the throne, whose very presence draws out the secret magic living inside her: a magic that breaks every law she is duty-bound to uphold…
The room is small and dark. Row upon row of jars line the shelves, each one sealed with blood-red wax. The seal’s mark is a twisted circle of briar with gleaming, gold-tipped thorns. And in each jar a flicker of forbidden magic dances… beautiful, but deadly.
Sold to the Crown in the aftermath of the Last Great War, Grace Marchant has never known her parents. Now, she trains as an elite soldier tracking down mageborn – those born with an ancient and long-outlawed magic – and destroying them if they don’t surrender their power to the Crown.
The mageborn who submit are collared, then handed over to the King’s cousin and heir: the elusive Bastien Larelwynn, Lord of Thorns, locked away in his shadowy workshop deep inside the castle. What becomes of them is hard to say – the Lord of Thorns keeps his secrets close.
Grace has always fought the voice inside her that questions whether the law is truly just – but when her closest friend is next on Bastien’s list, Grace’s loyalties are tested to the limit. Confronting Bastien – searching his strangely compelling obsidian-black eyes for answers – Grace is shocked to feel herself begin to change, to show the first signs of the wild magic she so fears.
Only the Lord of Thorns has the power to save her and the rest of the mageborn – if he doesn’t destroy them all first…