Rating: 3.5 stars
Buy Link:
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Length: Novel


It was almost like a story. Max went from being a servant to being the prince overnight. All it cost him was his innocence, his parents, and his freedom. The King calls him Julian, the name of his son — the same son Max killed in self defense, using magic, something that the Southern Kingdoms haven’t seen in generations — and treats him as if he were Julian. Max’s hair is dyed, he wears the clothes of the man who tried to kill him, and the servants who were once his friends are now threats to be used against him. Disobey, they die. Try to run away, they die. Fail … they all die.

King Gathrax, the red king, is a monster. But he’s a monster with a purpose. Now that he has a mage at his command, he sees the chance to finally stand up to the Northern Kingdom, to reclaim the South’s power and stand firm against the dragons and mages who slaughtered every magic user the South had. Julian doesn’t want to go to war. He wants his parents, who are being held by Gathrax. If it takes killing one men or a dozen, an army of dragons or innocent farmers, he will.

Even if it means destroying his soul.

The first book in the Court of Broken Bonds is a fantasy romance that personally I’d put it firmly in the YA category. The writing style, the age and maturity of the characters, and the very straightforward way morality and themes are approached in this book seem geared for a younger audience. However, there are some subjects, such as attempted sexual assault, bullying, the constant threatening of harm to Max’s parents, and so many murders and death to keep an eye on for more sensitive readers.

Max is the Chosen One, a young man who — in defending himself against the threat of physical harm — ends up discovering he has magic in a violent, bloody display of power that leaves Julian impaled on a tree and Max in shock. This shock leaves him vulnerable when King Gathrax discovers the secret and has his mother beaten to ensure Max’s good behavior, among which is taking him to the body of his son and properly burying it in the woods. King Garthrax makes for a good villain; Max is terrified of him, of the power the man holds, and finds himself hating the man even as he has to call the man father in public and play the part of being Prince Julian. This leaves Max with thoughts of violence, revenge, and even despair — exacerbated when the King brings out one of the palace staff as prey for a celebratory hunt and demands Max kill her. Max then has to make the choice: A friend, someone he knows … or his parents. It’s a dark moment, leading to some interesting character development as Max takes a colder, harder approach to life and people afterwards. Under Garthrax, he’s lost his ability to trust; everyone seems to want to use him, and to do so, they use his parents again and again.

Camron, Max’s husband and the prince of a neighboring kingdom, has his parents taken away to his kingdom … only to promise to bring them back. The Northern kingdom, who very much want to get a look at Max, who claim ownership of him because of his magic, kidnap his parents to encourage him to come North. Everyone he’s met, everyone in power, treats the people he loves as things, bait to be waved in front of him, a club to hit him when when he disobeys. Is it any wonder he’s always angry, distrustful, and sullen?

Camron is a radiant warmth to the fire of King Garthrax, using Max’s real name — never once calling him Julian — offering him freedom, protection, and support. When Max wants to leave, he holds open the door. When Max doesn’t want to eat with him (owing to trust issues and wanting to see how far Camron can be pushed), Camron is more than willing to come to Max with food. However, he admits to hiding things from Max, to making decisions without Max’s input. And for Max, with all the lying, all the threats, all the people who have power over him … finds it hard to trust him.

The world building here feels clumsy. There are the ubiquitous peasant farmers tending the castle, but there are also brown paper bags. The Southern kingdoms are fairly egalitarian, with women queens and no difficulties with same-sex relationships. There are dragons and dryads, mentions of giants and more, but there is no specific feel to the kingdoms other than the vague fantasy feel.

The writing is a bit stiff, and the characters have no real set voice other than Max, who is anxious, nervous, and angry by turns. The book was also previously published as The Lost Mage; this updated version is said to have more steam but, to be honest, I didn’t feel any steam. There are two scenes between Max and Camron with some intimacy, but in both Max wants distraction from thoughts of his parents being hurt rather than wanting either an emotional or physical intimacy from Camron. I’d consider this more a slow burn.

In the end, this is a decent YA fantasy with dragons and mages and I wouldn’t mind reading the next one in the series.

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