Have you been to the land of Sinta?
First in the Kingmaker Chronicles, this is the fantasy debut by American-born Parisian, Amanda Bouchet. The main character Cat is a young woman of about 20 who is masquerading as a soothsayer in a circus to avoid detection by the Alpha Fisa (or Queen of the land of Fisa). Why? Because she can do more magic than just fortune-telling. She is a once-in-two-centuries “Kingmaker”, whose magic is wild and unknown, and can elevate a person to Alpha of their land, or even all the lands. If she is caught again, she will be forced to use her abilities, and remain imprisoned for a lifetime.
Then along comes the very attractive warrior Beta Sinta (the second-in-command of the land of Sinta) who senses that Cat is more than she seems, and kidnaps her. On their journey back to the castle, Alpha Fisa tracks her down and attacks their party twice. Both times, Cat discovers magic she didn’t know she had. By the time they reach the castle Sinta, her loyalties are as confused as her feelings towards Beta Sinta. Will she thrown in her lot with the Sintas? Can she escape Alpha Fisa forever? And what has Beta Sinta become to her?
This is one of those novels that worms its way into your mind, and makes you think about the characters for weeks after finishing. Bouchet did an excellent job of realising the characters, and world-building. Although it falls into the fantasy genre, anyone who loves a romance will probably like this even if they don’t normally like fantasy. It includes plenty of action, conniving and humour. I’m chaffing at the bit to read the second instalment, Breath of Fire, which is already out. 8/10