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Book Review: Secrets of the Starcrossed (The Once and Future Queen #1)

Published January 21st 2021, 445 pages

Author: Clara O’Connor

In a world where the Roman Empire never fell, two starcrossed lovers fight to ignite the spark of rebellion…

Londinium, the last stronghold of the Romans left in Britannia, remains in a delicate state of peace with the ancient kingdoms that surround it. As the only daughter of a powerful merchant, Cassandra is betrothed to Marcus, the most eligible bachelor in the city.

But then she meets Devyn, the boy with the strange midnight eyes searching for a girl with magic in her blood.

A boy who will make her believe in soulmates…

When a mysterious sickness starts to leech the life from citizens with Celtic power lying dormant in their veins, the imperial council sets their schemes in motion. And so Cassandra must make a choice: the Code or Chaos, science or sorcery, Marcus or Devyn?

Panem meets the Grishaverse in this explosive new YA trilogy perfect for readers of Marie Lu, Bella Forrest, and Cassandra Clare.

This story takes an alternate history where the Roman Empire never fell and gives the reader an excellent start to a promising series.  Secrets of the Starcrossed was a thrilling ride that leaves you wanting more, especially as it ends on a cliffhanger to set itself up for the next book. In this new reality, there is the dystopian Roman cities mixed with wilder unknowns. There is modern and futuristic technology meeting the world of Celtic magic. It was incredibly fascinating how the modern and ancient worlds were woven into one setting.  A very original story that compels the reader to want to learn more as each new secret is revealed.

Cassandra is the daughter of a successful merchant in her young 20s that is on her way to graduation in school. I have to admit that there were times that I had to remind myself of her age as I sometimes pictured her around 18 or 19. It is not terribly different, but it just meant I had to think about it slightly more. She has two secrets that she is aware of, and possibly more that she is unaware of. The first is that she is adopted as her parents died when she was younger. The second is that she is matched, and therefore betrothed, to the Marcus, the more eligible bachelor. Cass and Marcus were matched when she was 12 years old and they met for the first time during their “matching party.” They have not spent time together since, but Cass is excited for the match. That is until she runs into the mysterious Devyn at school.

She has an instant connection to Devyn and feels drawn to him. The story is told through her perspective where we get her inner turmoil between the love interest she wants and the one that she is supposed to be with.  Devyn cares greatly for Cass and has an attraction to her, but he cannot fully commit to be with her for mysterious reasons that he cannot explain. Most likely this will be explained in future novels, but it is frustrating when the two of them have great chemistry and banter. As a lot of her frustration with wanting Devyn, but not being able to have him takes a lot of her thoughts, it can become a little frustrating to the reader in a different way as it tended to interrupt the main pacing of the plot. Some events were not as smooth to read as it would be interrupted by her pining for Devyn. I understand this part of her character and how it is essential to the story, but I just wish there was slightly less. It would have the same effect as it is very clear that the two want to be together, but can’t.

The writing can feel like an info dump at times, especially at the beginning as the world is set-up. The story slowly builds up and remains fairly steady until a little over the halfway point where the story’s pace picks up as more action takes place.  There are a lot of twists and turns along the way and takes some thought to keep everything straight. Over time, Cass learns that maybe the life that she was raised into may not be as ideal as she thought. Her growth at becoming more aware of everything around her and also learning more about her own self was done gradually throughout the novel. It was an extremely realistic way to read about character development as it did not occur overnight. This slow pacing with mistakes being made along the way was also done very well with the magic. As characters become more aware of their abilities, they are not instant masters and instead have to learn pieces and from their mistakes.

Overall, the character I liked the best was Marcus as I did not fully connect with the others. He was likable and, even though, he’s not even mentioned initially, you connect with his story immediately as he is struggling to come to terms with his own existence and future. I picked up this novel after receiving an ARC copy of the second novel. If I only started this one without motivation to finish the second, I am not sure I would have continued as it was just okay. There was nothing to sway me to think of it negatively, but it did not capture me enough to continue it on its own. I will say that with the cliffhanger I am excited to read about what will happen next. I also have hope that I will connect with the characters more as most of the initial world building has taken place and the events of the series are in motion. This series has incredible potential as it captivates readers to learn about every new secret. Although I have some dislikes about this story, I am very confident that the series will continue on a strong note.

9 thoughts on “Book Review: Secrets of the Starcrossed (The Once and Future Queen #1)

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