Sovereign: The Gilded King by Josie Jaffrey
In the Blue, the world’s last city, all is not well.
Julia is stuck within its walls. She serves the nobility from a distance until she meets Lucas, a boy who believes in fairytales that Julia’s world can’t accommodate. The Blue is her prison, not her castle, and she’d escape into the trees if she didn’t know that contamination and death awaited humanity outside.
But not everyone in the Blue is human, and not everyone can be contained.
Beyond the city’s boundaries, in the wild forests of the Red, Cameron has precious little humanity left to lose. As he searches for a lost queen, he finds an enemy rising that he thought long dead. An enemy that the humans have forgotten how to fight.
One way or another, the walls of the Blue are coming down. The only question is what side you’ll be on when they do.
The Gilded King is the first book of Sovereign, a dystopian+romance+fantasy YA series. When I first read the blurb, the walled-in city setting surrounded by wilderness vaguely reminded me of Shingeki no Kyojin. The similarity ends there. Instead of titans, we get vampires and zombies.
The book splits into two. First is Julia’s story, where she yearns for freedom and reluctantly becomes the Attendant (a job she never wanted) of a Noble because what choice does she have? The Noble, Lucas was not what she expected and she started having conflicting thoughts. I found Julia a bit naive and too careless about revealing her true thoughts, especially to Rufus, Claudia’s Noble, who was not to be trusted. However, I approved of her conviction there there must be something better outside of her station and outside Blue.The fact that she gave it a try and would have gotten farther if not for some unfortunate timing made me root for her.
The second follows the Invicti, Cameron, as he searches for his friend, Emmy, thought to have been lost or dead for centuries. Being hundreds of years old, I expected Cam to act more world weary and well, old but he acts the way he looks which is 21. I liked his determination to find his friend and also, yes! to his slow-burn relationship with Felix.
I admit, I hit a slump at the part where Cam was on his journey and it took me a while to shake it off. I started feeling invested in the story again when Lucas was telling Julia the tale of the Gilded King and Cam fell into a hole and met Felix. After that, the whole thing hit its stride and I couldn’t put it down. The book flipped from Julia’s and Cam’s POVs and each chapter ended with enough suspense and tension to keep readers on the edge.
In terms of world-building, I wasn’t exactly confused but there were some references and backstories I would have understood better if I had read the Solis Invicti series. One particular backstory that piqued my interest is the politics among the Invicti, how Laila became the Empress and what happened to Sol and Emmy. However, there were legends and fairy tales that served as background information and I can safely say readers can read Sovereign as a standalone series.
One thing I especially liked is that this book is a rare beast wherein the female protagonist, Julia and the male protagonist, Cameron, do not end up romantically linked. I make a special mention of this because all too often, the hero and heroine are always a couple. The romance between Julia and Lucas and Cam and Felix progressed at a reasonable pace and developed convincingly. Also major points for treating the gay relationship as normal as the other relationships.
The book also focuses on friendship. Claudia, Julia’s friend, was somebody who I was close to not liking because I thought she was the type who needs rescuing. But girl proved her mettle and her connection with Julia only grew stronger. Marcella is another interesting character and I am curious to find out if she is friend or foe. There was also Cam’s loyalty to Emmy and his friends but the Invicti was not as united as they want the citizens of Blue to think. What happens if they fall apart?
The two POVs merge into a gripping climax as the world they knew was invaded from the outside. There were revelations I didn’t see coming and that ending was damn!
The search for Emmy continues. Would Cam and his friends finally find her? Would Felix reveal his secrets to Cam (and why does Felix smell like nutmeg)? Is Lucas running away from Blue? Will Julia succeed in getting out? And more importantly, what happens if the king and queen wake up? Would they ever see each other again?
Definitely need that second book!
Thank you to the author, Josie Jaffrey, for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love