A heart-pounding prologue kicks off this page-turning tale: two sisters kidnap a baby tied to a prophecy, kill her mother using magic, and then the older sister, Sabina, kills her younger sister.
Next, the author introduces readers to three kingdoms. In the first, Paelsia, an illegitimate noble from the kingdom of Auronos with a chip on his shoulder kills the son of Paelsia's most gifted winemaker after attempting to cheat his father of a fair price. The killer, Aron, is the presumed match for Cleo, daughter of King Corwin Bellos, leader of Auronos, a lush kingdom where the royals live in luxury. Meanwhile, in the neighboring kingdom of Limeros, Sabina resides as mistress of its leader, King Gaios. His son, Magnus, heir to the Limeros throne, is developing "unnatural" feelings toward his sister, Lucia (whom we soon suspect is actually the kidnapped baby, now 16).
The prose may be a bit flabby (certain events are retold from a number of characters' perspectives with no new details added), but the plot moves like the wind, and even with these revelations early on, readers will be anxious to see how the various love triangles and the jockeying for position among the royals play out. Unlike The Hunger Games and Kristin Cashore's Graceling series, this first book in a planned quartet ends on a cliffhanger. The second book, Rebel Spring, is due out in fall 2013. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness