Fair warning, if you liked this book, this review will not be for you.
Five sisters, the daughters of a king, could not be more different from one another. But when their father is struck down by a mysterious illness, they are forced to set out on a dangerous journey, seeking a powerful witch, who just might be able to save him, and stop their treacherous stepbrother from seizing the throne. To succeed they must face harsh wilderness and dangerous magics, but the greatest threat may be the secrets they hide from each other: secrets that could destroy them, and the entire kingdom.
I wanted to like this book, I really did. When I first picked it up, the premise grabbed me right away. A group of royal sisters going on an epic quest to save their father? That sounds amazing! A story with an enormous potential for action, magic, and adventure that explores the complicated bonds shared between sisters.
Too bad that’s not really what we get here.
Rather than having five sisters, all very different but still united to save their father against all odds, we have a group of strangers, who just happen to have the same parents. Now, in the time period this is based on, I know siblings would be separated and oftentimes were raised apart from their parents. But the premise is based on these sisters working together to save their father. Instead, the majority are more focused on their own petty drama than the man on his deathbed, and barely seem able to tolerate each other.
“She knew one day her father would die and she would take his place. She had prepared her whole life for the moment, but it had always been abstract, like a story. The real moment—hot and present—had lit a fire in her breast.”― Kim Wilkins, Daughters of the Storm
Additionally, I didn’t connect with any of the characters. Out of the five, there were only two sisters I found even remotely likable or interesting; the rest of them were varying degrees of wooden, ranging from block-of-wood stupid to spinter-in-your-eye hateful. In fact, nearly all the women in this book are presented as petty and self-centred with little to redeem them.
It was to the point that I actually started to root for the – quote-unquote – “villain” of the story: Wylm, their “evil” step-brother. He’s far from perfect, and does at least one thing that I found particularly horrible, but his biggest motivation really seems to be protecting someone he loves. From the sisters. And when your antagonist’s motives and action seem justified to the reader, but are entirely vilified in the narrative, that’s a huge problem.
None of this is helped by the fact that large sections of this book seem to plod along. Mostly, it was a lot of walking and a lot of sitting around with very little happening in between. Wilkin’s prose is competent, but scenes tend to drag with description (mostly of the woods) and fight scenes are a little hard to follow at points. Additionally, the world itself ends up feeling very generic, and oddly small for a grand, epic journey into the farthest corners of the kingdom – more than one character crosses miles of terrain between page breaks within the same chapter. It didn’t help that my copy of this book lacked a map, so I couldn’t even reference that to help fill in the gaps.
“What a grumbling storm she had invoked. And yet it was done. Now he had to be man enough to walk into this storm, and emerge as Almissia’s king.”― Kim Wilkins, Daughters of the Storm
The magic system was at least mysterious and interesting enough, but that alone can’t save the story in my opinion. Really, the only thing I enjoyed about this book was a minor plot twist towards the end. But it barely mattered in this story at large, and could have easily been removed without changing the main plot in the slightest.
In the end, this book just didn’t work for me. Maybe some readers were able to connect with this story, and if so, I hope they enjoyed it. But I am not one of them. This is the first in Wilkin’s Blood and Gold trilogy, but I won’t be picking up the sequels any time soon.
Final Thoughts: With a generic setting and some truly unlikeable protagonists, the story fails to live up to the potential of its premise, creating a narrative without any charm or heart to carry it through. Other readers may be able to enjoy it, but I definitely am not one of them.
Thanks for reading everyone.