Londinium, the last stronghold of the Romans left Britannia, remains in a delicate state of peace with the pagan kingdoms that surround it. Within its mighty walls defiance means death and capital punishment is decreed by public vote.
As the only daughter of a powerful merchant, Cassandra is betrothed to Marcus, the most eligible bachelor in the city and the last scion of the Old Blood.
But then she meets Devyn, the boy with the strange midnight eyes searching for a girl with magic in her blood. A mythical guardian from an ancient Celtic kingdom with a debt to pay to a Northern lord…
A boy who will make her believe in soulmates.
When a mysterious virus rips through the slums leeching the life from citizens with Celtic power lying dormant in their veins, the imperial council hide behind locked doors, scheming. But the question remains: is magic the cure or the curse?
Length: 445 pages
Publisher: One More Chapter
I requested Secrets of the Star-crossed from NetGalley because it sounded unusual. An alternative history where the Romans never left Britain, where Celtic magic exists? Sounded right up my alley.
And boy was I right.
The central character, Cassandra, is the daughter of a wealthy merchant in Londinium. She’s spoilt and pampered, but one day she chooses to help one of her classmates to evade arrest. She gets drawn into a plot and world she never imagined existed.
I loved Cassandra. I thought she was the perfect mix of rich girl and fighter. She doesn’t whine or throw tantrums when things don’t go her way, but fights instead. She digs her heels in and refuses to give in. I can relate.
Devyn is the boy she saves from arrest. And over the course of the novel they become close, and fall for each other. I loved their relationship too. Devyn is a mystery, but so far a mystery in a good way. He’s the wrong boy – but he’s not a bad boy, if that makes sense. There’s nothing weird or unsavoury about their relationship by normal standards.
But Cassandra is engaged to her ‘match’, Marcus. In this world, young people are matched with their perfect partner through their DNA. Cue a love triangle.
I don’t mind love triangles, especially when it’s pretty clear what the outcome is going to be. And neither Devyn nor Marcus annoyed me. They both seemed like good people, just caught in a bad situation.
The world is intricate. Londinium is a little futuristic. Nothing extremely high-tech, but O’Connor has clearly extrapolated from the technology we have now, and just amped it up a little. For instance, in classes, Cassandra uses a tablet. There is no mention of pen paper, or computers.
But the most interesting thing about Londinium is the level of surveillance the citizens are under. They are watched almost everywhere, through cameras and the every-resent Sentinels. And if they are caught doing something against the Code (their law)? They are tried publicly in the arena. Which is just brutal.
Outside the city, the lands are wild. This is where the Celts live. I loved this juxtaposition of future and past. We don’t get to see much of the Celts and their magic in this first book, but I have a feeling they’ll feature heavily in the next two books in the series.
I loved averting about this book. The writing was perfect for me – the balance O’Connor hit between simple language and beautiful descriptions was just right. I felt like I could float away inside some of her language. The characters felt real, and their reactions all made sense. The world building is clearly extremely well-thought out. I definitely felt like there was a whole iceberg under the ocean we aren’t seeing.
I have pre-ordered all three books in this series, and I’m especially excite because all three come out this year. I don’t know why the publishers made the decision to release the books this way, but I’m very glad they did. More need to do the same.
Highly, highly recommend for any fans of YA fantasy.
This is the best book I’ve read in quite a while.