Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight. When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. She relishes the chance, as Illustrian spies have reported that Atoc’s no longer carrying his deadly relic. If Ximena can find it, she can return the true aristócrata to their rightful place. She hunts for the relic, using her weaving ability to hide messages in tapestries for the resistance. But when a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princesa, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge―and her Condesa.
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She does so hoping she can spy on him and send messages back. In particular, they are searching for the Estrella, a magical item that can command a ghost army and had won the revolt for the Llacsans. As Ximena journeys to the palace, she realizes darker truths about the state of the current king and the history of her people, which was one of oppression over the other tribes.
With messages about politics, ethics, and the path to doing what is right, this magical fantasy is an enthralling read. The characters, world-building, and magic are all unique and really drive forward a lovely story. Add that on to an interesting plot and the fact that this is a stand-alone, and you have an unforgettable read.
Towards the end, there are some bumps in the plot, which I hope will be smoothed during editing, as some of the actions of certain characters- while overall necessary for plot- just did not quite seem to fit. These were minor, however. I would add some warnings for domestic violence, torture (graphic at times), and ritual sacrifice, as well as past child bride type mentions.
Overall, this is a beautifully constructed story, and I would love to read more from this talented author.