The Shattered Court by M. J. Scott

The Shattered Court by M. J. Scott(Cover picture courtesy of NetGalley.)

Entangled in a court ruled by tradition and intrigue, a young witch must come to terms with newfound power and desire—and a choice between loyalty and survival.…

The royal witches of Anglion have bowed to tradition for centuries. If a woman of royal blood manifests powers, she is immediately bound by rites of marriage. She will serve her lord by practicing the tamer magics of the earth—ensuring good harvests and predicting the weather. Any magic more dangerous is forbidden.

Lady Sophia Kendall, thirty-second in line to the throne, is only days away from finding out if she will be blessed—or perhaps cursed—with magic. When a vicious attack by Anglion’s ancient enemies leaves the kingdom in chaos, Sophia is forced to flee the court. Her protector by happenstance is Lieutenant Cameron Mackenzie, a member of the royal guard, raised all his life to be fiercely loyal to the Crown.

Then Sophia’s powers manifest stronger than she ever imagined they would, and Cameron and she are inextricably linked in the process. As a witch unbound by marriage rites, Sophia is not only a threat to the established order of her country, but is also a weapon for those who seek to destroy it. Faced with old secrets and new truths, she must decide if she will fight for her country or succumb to the delicious temptation of power.…

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

It was the cover that attracted my attention and the blurb that piqued my interest but in the end it was M. J. Scott’s amazing writing that made me fall in love with the book.

In The Shattered Court, Scott has created a beautiful fantasy world full of mystery and magic, intrigue and innocence, loyalty and betrayal.  It’s definitely a world of duality where nothing is as it seems, particularly toward the end of the novel.  The way Scott set up the whole magic system in Anglion is just brilliant.  There are four known types of magic, you see, but women (especially royal women) are only allowed to practice earth magic, which seems to be one of the weaker magics in general.  Air magic and especially water magic are forbidden and knowledge of them is extremely limited.  In the neighbouring kingdom of Illvya things are quite different but the royal family restricts knowledge of the other kingdom almost as much as they restrict the trade with it.

Enter into this world our protagonist Lady Sophia, who prefers the name Sophie.  She’s about to turn 21, the age when all witches’ powers will manifest or not when there is an attack on the royal castle in Anglion.  Since she was in the lower town gathering magical supplies with the Crown Princess’ own bodyguard, Cameron Mackenzie, she is whisked away to the country where it’s safer.  So not only does she not have the proper Ais-Seann ceremony on her 21st birthday, she does something rather unconventional that really is problematic when you consider the fact that she’s supposed to be properly bound in a marriage ceremony instead of on a ley line with a mere third son (the aforementioned Cameron).  When she gets back to court and discovers who lived and who died in the vicious attack that destroyed much of the palace, her life is forever changed.  Suddenly, Sophie isn’t sure who to trust, even though she was utterly devoted to Eloisa, the Crown Princess.  Now that she’s manifested and moved up in the line of succession due to a number of deaths it seems that everyone at court wants a piece of her.  And trust me when I say that things quickly get complicated.

Although Sophie is sort of the main focus of the story we also get to see things from Cameron’s point of view.  Of all the characters I think it’s Cameron that undergoes the biggest change throughout the story.  He goes from being Eloisa’s lover to being a sort of outcast in court for his actions.  He also loses his overbearing father who constantly pushed him to take advantage of his role as Eloisa’s lover to advance in court.  But when Sophie and he are accidentally and inextricably bound, things get a heck of a lot more complicated than he would have liked.  Cameron moves up in the world but learns that he and the woman he loves are in more danger than he ever dreamed possible.  I don’t want to give away too many spoilers but let’s just say his new love leads him to change his loyalties pretty quickly and make some very hard decisions, particularly toward the end of the book.

The plot is quite fast-paced.  We’re introduced to Anglion and the two main characters and then the attack on the castle happens just as we’re getting our bearings.  While there are some slower parts, Scott never really lets up with the tension because there’s always a sort of unseen threat lurking in the background.  Who was behind the attacks?  And who is unhappy enough with Sophie’s unconventional bonding that they would actually threaten her life?  As Sophie and Cameron struggle to unravel the mystery of who essentially bombed the castle, they’re faced with a whole host of other dilemmas as they start to make certain powerful people uncomfortable with all of their digging.  Again, I don’t want to give away some of the plot twists because they’re awesome but let’s just say that more than one person would happily silence Sophie or Cameron (or both) in a heartbeat.

So here we have a vivid, rich fantasy world populated by complex and interesting characters.  If The Shattered Court just had that going for it I would have fallen in love with it but with the plot twists and the constant tension throughout the narrative there was no doubt that I would love this book.  The cliffhanger ending was good because it resolved some of the initial questions in the story but left a lot of new questions to be answered in the second book.  And believe me when I say that I’m very eagerly awaiting the next book even though this first book won’t actually be published until April 28th of this year.  Yes, it was just that good.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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