Synopsis: When Amaya rescues a mysterious stranger from drowning, she fears her rash actions have earned her a longer sentence on the debtor ship where she’s been held captive for years. Instead, the man she saved offers her unimaginable riches and a new identity, setting Amaya on a perilous course through the coastal city-state of Moray, where old-world opulence and desperate gamblers collide.
Amaya wants one thing: revenge against the man who ruined her family and stole the life she once had. But the more entangled she becomes in this game of deception—and as her path intertwines with the son of the man she’s plotting to bring down—the more she uncovers about the truth of her past. And the more she realizes she must trust no one… (Amazon)
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Genre: Fantasy / YA
Rating: 4 stars
A retelling is one of my favorite tropes. A retelling of a classic novel is an extra boon. A retelling of a classic novel where the lead will be a female—for obvious reasons here—has even more potential. It still worries me, because I cringe at the possibility of said female being the type of bad ass that is completely unbelievable given her past low experience and current high abilities. But Amaya pulls it off nicely—she gives you just enough kick without being overwhelming.
If you've read the original The Count of Monte Cristo or seen any of the film versions, then you know the general story: the lead spends a certain amount of time unjustly jailed by someone who screwed them over and has been benefiting on their behalf all this time, soon to be the source of the lead's revenge once they are freed. The same thing is done here, but with a few fun and entertaining twists.
I loved the setting, first of all, which is familiar enough to be close to the original story, but different enough to be enjoyable to explore. That sense of being in a land owned by the ocean, with its sailors, its bright weather, its vices and virtues is great fun. I do wish that more detail would have been put into the type of people who live there, the architecture, the flora and fauna. You still get the general idea and can easily fill in the blanks from imagination, which is fine; but it just falls slightly short of painting a full picture.
The main set of characters that live and interact are, for the most part, quite nicely fleshed out, made up of Amaya and Cayo. But secondary characters can't be overlooked. Yes, we get a vibe of what motivates Romara, Liesl, Deadshot, even Boon. But sometimes, when you leave so much hidden, waiting for that moment to reveal it but not doing it—at least in the first book—or wanting to keep too many things close to your chest, the story tends to suffer a bit, and those characters feel slightly like props.
I found myself feeling like certain moments in the story moved a little too fast, where more dialogue would've been beneficial, where things that happened did not develop and I was left wanting. I would've loved to actually be there to see Boon train Amaya rather than getting snippets here and there when she reminisced, for one. Yes, it's good to stay in the moment, to move the story along, to not lag too much. But that bit of story helps you connect with the characters even more. And though Boon is not who he appears to be at the beginning, or even after he rescues Amaya—to an extent—that part of him that I missed as developed, might have still grown on me because I would've gained a connection with the character despite eventually knowing what his end goal was.
His role in the scheme of the story was a nice twist, however. I wasn't expecting, at all, the dealings that he, Mercado, and the Slum King all had together. Nor Amaya's father for that matter. That drama was excellently executed, was so fun to read, and I hope that more comes of it in the future book(s). That, to me, was the best part of the book: the simple storytelling, and what made me enjoy it so much. Whenever something else might have been deficient, the story more than made up for it. It's an intriguing and fun tale to follow, with a strong and determined lead who goes after what she wants without losing track of what's important to her.
All in all, this one was a diverting good time.