Astrid is a vygora—a rare being that can absorb one’s life force energy and transfer it to another with only a touch. Only two people know what she’s truly capable of: her best friend, Ilona, and her mother, the Queen of Hakran, a powerful myndox.
When foreign royalty and their handsome guard, Dashiel Dargan, show up unexpectedly with the ability to mute myndox manipulation, Astrid discovers she’s been a prisoner to her mother’s power her entire life, and she’s not the only one. Faced with a lifetime of memories built on lies, she’s caught between the story she thinks she knows and the one she doesn’t remember.
But when she can’t trust anyone, how can she figure out which story is true?
These Wicked Lies follows Astrid, a princess with the rare power to absorb life force from one person and transfer it to another, a power she uses to her mother Queen Enira young and beautiful. Enira herself is incredibly powerful and uses her abilities as a myndox to manipulate others into compliance and maintain her hold on the island of Hakran.
When foreign royals who are immune to Enira’s powers arrive on the island, Astrid will slowly start to realise she has been her mother’s prisoner for all her life, and it will take all she has to know who to trust while untangling the deep web of lies she finds herself in.
These Wicked Lies is a great read for any fantasy and romance fans. I loved following Astrid, who is a truly compelling main character. She is complex, conflicted, opinionated and fierce, and it was really refreshing to read about a protagonist who is not just good and fated to save the world. Essentially, a deliciously morally grey character at her finest.
The cast of secondary characters was also varied and really interesting to read about. It was clear none of them were a mere filler, but at the same time, some definitely had more space than others to truly shine. As this is only the first book though I expect we’ll see much more of them in future instalments. I particularly enjoyed the dark, brooding love interests and the banter between Astrid and other characters. It was also just spicy enough, with one more explicit scene but plenty of other delightful romantic exchanges.
I also really enjoyed the worldbuilding. It is very easy in fantasy books to either have massive infodumps or a system far too complex for readers to keep up with, but there was no such issue here. I liked how the author managed to explain the world and magic systems clearly while avoiding long expositions and also pacing it in such a way that there was plenty of time to absorb key information before new reveals. The settings were lush and intriguing, and the descriptions of food definitely made me hungry!
The plot was twisty enough to keep me reading well into the night. I had an inkling about some reveals, but I was still surprised when they rolled around as I had not quite expected that, and there was more still that I had absolutely not seen coming. The foreshadowing was executed really well, so that at no point did it feel like things were coming out of nowhere. The ending absolutely blew me away and I need Book 2 as soon as possible! It is a cliffhanger ending, so just be aware of that if you dislike them.
I did have some small issues with pacing, and a few passages felt slightly repetitive, but overall this was a wicked read and a great debut novel, which is likely to appeal to fans of romantic fantasy and Sarah J. Maas.
This review was originally published on Reedsy Discovery.