Publication Date: MAY 4, 2021


Two sisters. One enchanted forest. And a hidden destiny that could doom them both…

I didn’t want to come live in the castle beside the Darkwood, and I especially didn’t want to become enemies with my stepsister, Neeve. But how could I help it? She has magic, while I’m an ordinary girl. She’s the heir to the throne, while I’m an annoying afterthought since my mother married the king. And Neeve has the ability to master her emotions while I’m a red-haired disaster.

She also has Thorne, the handsome guardian of the forest, who tutors her in the powers that are her heritage. Even though I know he could never be mine, I can’t keep my heart from dreaming of the impossible.

But everything changes, the day I uncover the secrets the castle has been hiding…


Rating: 4/5

This is how a fairytale retelling should be like. I don’t think I have enough words to describe how great this book is. This enchanting fairytale retelling of Snow White and Rose Red is beyond any other retellings I’d read before. I never read a fairytale retelling as good as this one, especially when it comes to a Snow White story.

I didn’t know what to expect and that makes this book enjoyable to read. Don’t expect anything, just read and that makes the element of surprise interesting. Now that I mentioned a surprise, this book does hold so many surprises. There are things that never stop shocking me. I was in awed and it truly feels magical learning the truth about the characters and some important stuffs such as the secrets of the Darkwood forest.

The story is about Rose and her mother moving to Castle Raine which is far away from their hometown because her mother married the King of Raine. There, she met her stepsister Princess Neeve who is as pale and white as snow. Rose finds her stepsister so mysterious and one day, she followed Neeve into the Darkwood forest. And that’s where she learns the truth about the secrets Raine has been keeping from the rest of the world, and also where everything unfolds and strange things happened.

I didn’t expect for the storyline to be so simple and yet holds more charm. It was easy to follow whatever is happening in this book and also easy to understand everything. I find the story to be very engaging and not once did I ever feel like losing interest halfway through reading this book. It held my attention from the start until the end. I was so captivated by it.

As for the plot, it was consistent all the way through. It mainly focus on Rose discovering all the secrets of the Darkwood and how it becomes Raine’s greatest secret. When you think you had it all figured out after the first surprise, but then you were hit by many more surprises again, then after that it just keeps getting better and better. Raine’s secret is the Darkwood, an enchanted forest full of magic. And the Darkwood holds more secrets that not everyone have the rights to know. Rose is one of the lucky humans to ever be able to uncover it.

The Darkwood is exactly how I pictured an enchanted forest should be like; full of magic and magical or mythical creatures. It was a widely beautiful forest. I was wondering what is so special about it and why Neeve kept it and its secret guarded. Turns out it was more than just a forest. There was a lot to learn about it and I get why the king strongly protect it.

I also find the setting of the whole story so peaceful and quiet since the story doesn’t take place in many places, just Castle Raine and the Darkwood. Parnese which is Rose’s hometown before she moved to Raine also appeared in the story for a little bit.

There was also a few traditions that was shown in the story. First is the Yule Feast, and I liked the kind of performances the characters had to do for the special event. Every year, they are doing different performances but my most favorite was when Rose did a solo harp’s performance. She finally showcased her talent so that people know that at least she’s good at something. The feast was the tradition in Castle Raine, simple and yet well-organized.

Second is the nirwen harvest. Nirwen is some sort of flowers that are important for the Dark Elves. It is also why the Dark Elves should have great relations with the royal family of Raine. The flowers played a huge role in connecting the world of the Dark Elves and the human world. There was a deeper reason as to why the nirwen is important and why the harvest is needed.

The Dark Elves may not have a huge role in this book but they are just as important as the main characters of the story for obvious reasons. Maybe the next book will have the whole clan of the Dark Elves playing a huge role especially since there has been an unrest in Parnese with the Priests of the Twin Gods, and there are newcomers from Fiorland that stays in Castle Raine and one of them is acting shady *cough* Jarl Eiric *cough.* The Darkwood will be in danger if its secrets ever comes out to the wrong hands. I’m stressing out over here imagining the worst that could happen to it if the direction of the story will go that way. Let’s hope not even though I have a sickening feeling this will happen.

There was a few amazing action sequences that involved magic. It was said many times in this book that humans don’t have magic unless they practice it like the priests of the Twin Gods. They used a method that can give them powers and their powers are basically just fire which is quite dangerous. It was shown on a few occasions how powerful the priests are, and they are obviously a threat. Even though this book doesn’t have an actual villain but it perfectly setting up the priests to be the main villain of the trilogy.

Maybe they’ll have a huge role to play in the next book. They might also be searching for Rose since she pulled a nice trick on them at the end of the book. Their search can lead them to Raine if they succeed in searching for her and guess what is important there? The Darkwood, and what is important in the Darkwood? Nirwen, and what did the nirwen connects? The Dark Elves and the royal family of Raine. Now you get why Raine and the Darkwood can be in danger.

Now back to the magic thing. The priests are proof that humans can have magic if they practiced like they did, but the priests are greedy and wanted to rule the whole world which makes them a threat. The author did a great job in creating them and making her readers feel a strong feeling of fear when the priests appeared.

It was also said that only the Dark Elves can have magic and someone who is a half-elf and half-human. This whole book repeatedly stated that humans can’t have magic unless they practice or born with it. Regarding Rose’s situation, she did practice by following instructions from an old book but the tricked she did on the priests and the one incident that happened in the forest makes it seem like she was born with magic. Could it be that she already have magic in her and the practice she did helps unlock her power? The people who knew about magic told her repeatedly that she doesn’t have it, but maybe they just didn’t know? I guess I have just to wait and see. Anyway the little magic action at the end was mind-blowing, I was shocked and speechless. I’m expecting more jaw-dropping magic actions in the sequel.

Now let’s talk about the characters…

Rose is the main protagonist and the whole book is from her POV. I can relate to her character more than her stepsister, Neeve. It’s understandable why Rose acted the way she did in the book. She’s a normal human girl who doesn’t have magic, she went from a commoner to a royalty, she went from living in Parnese which is a big town where her friends are living in and suddenly she had to left them behind to live in a quiet castle of Raine, her stepsister disliked her for no reason when she first came to Raine, her mother didn’t give her attention since coming to Raine, the king obviously doesn’t bother to talk to her at all since she’s only his stepdaughter, then she met a handsome stranger in the Darkwood named Thorne who may or may not have feelings for Neeve and start to admired him, and then a prince from a foreign land named Kian is coming to live in the castle but his attention is mainly focus on Neeve.

Just imagine yourself in Rose’s shoes, it feels like no one cares about her because she’s not an heir to the throne and wasn’t born a royal princess. I feel sad for her the most because she was an outcast. I understood her feelings of wanting someone to give her attention, of wanting to be loved, and of wanting to feel like she belonged. It was sad to see she doesn’t have any friends to talk to and Neeve avoided her whenever she can. Rose felt alone like truly alone, it was like her existence didn’t matter which made me cry whenever I think about her situation. When Thorne gave her his attention and being the first to ever been kind to her, she admired him and her feelings for him keep on growing but then she was sad again knowing there’s a strong possibility he might not feel the same.

Rose is a very relatable character and this is why I can’t criticize her for acting stubborn all the time, being selfish a few times, and angry or sad when no one seem to care about what she felt on the inside. I get the reason behind her action, and I can’t fault her for that. I can’t even be mad at her for using an old book to practice magic so that she can have magic. I admit it was foolish of her because she doesn’t know what the consequences will be but I also understand why she did it. Her stepsister is a girl who was born with magic so it was understandable why Rose wanted magic too. She just wanted to feel important and special. Not to mention that Raine is a kingdom full of magic, thanks to the Darkwood.

The way her character was written in this book is very realistic. I can definitely see myself acting like how she acted and doing what she did if I were thrown into a world full of magic,  mythical creatures, and an enchanted forest where the impossible exist. I would be so curious enough to find out the truth on my own which will ended up with me getting myself in sorts of deep trouble or getting myself nearly killed. And on the other hand, I would probably annoyed my own stepsister by asking too many questions. I definitely can see myself in Rose especially if I were at the same age as she is in the story. I’m 23 now, but I can still relate to her. It was amazing how the author managed to properly write Rose’s character and make the readers feel her pain and her sadness.

The whole way through, I was sad that Rose was unimportant. The only time everyone cares about her was whenever her illness came back every year during her birthday. She even missed her birthday and can’t celebrate because of her strange and mysterious illness that strikes her before her birthday. Give the girl a break, she has suffered a lot already. Regarding her illness, it wasn’t stated what kind of illness she had. Just that, it was really fatal because during one of her birthdays she was unconscious for 3 or 9 days if I’m not mistaken. And then during her 16th birthday, she was in and out of consciousness for 3 months and even after that she felt like she was paralyzed. Her strength was weak and she can’t even sit or stand or walk without collapsing. It took her weeks to fully recovered.

I still find it strange how her illness came only during the night before her birthday. It was mentioned that something happened to her when she was seven and her mother said her illness started when she was that age but she doesn’t remember. Her mother refused to elaborate on the subject, so for now her illness is still unknown but I do admit it was really mysterious. Perhaps, it has something to do with magic. Maybe she indeed have magic but it was still lock deep inside of her. There was an explanation early on when she was told that if she have magic, it will come to her either the night before she turns 14 or it will take years after that. Strange things happened ever since the night before she turned 14, and the book ended when she’s 16 already. So maybe there’s something that will happen to her the night before her 17th birthday in the sequel? I’m so excited to see where this is going.

Overall, Rose’s character is very relatable and also likable (only likable if you truly understand the reason behind her actions). She was nosy, impatient, and stubborn but she was also 13 when the book started and when the book ended she’s already 16. There will always be a room for improvement, maybe in the sequel she matured up a bit and I want to see a huge character development for her. Aside from all of that, she was also a very determined girl, a boss of her own life, is pretty talented, very smart and have a good spying skills. She’s amazing but I do hope to see more great things coming for her. I’m looking forward to see what the author have in store for her character.

Neeve is a very strange girl who doesn’t talk much. When Rose described her skin is really pale, I was wondering what happened to her. She was really mysterious at first and she kept her secrets to herself. Once the truth about her got out, I was shocked because I didn’t expect to find out what she really is. I also understand why she was lonely living in the castle and why she was sad. I thought it was because she lost her mother but turns out she just wanted to go to the world where she feels truly at home, and where she feels like she belonged. But to be honest, she doesn’t have to be rude to Rose since Rose can understand what she feels.

I thought these two sisters won’t become friends but turns out I was wrong. It was nice to see a little development in both of their characters. They went from only talking a few words to each other to become comfortable enough with each other to talk about a lot of things. It was nice to see Neeve being happy and being kind to Rose. Their sisterly bond might not be strong at first but as the story goes on, it becomes a lot stronger than I expected it to be.

I liked the parts where Rose was angry at Neeve for the first time after Neeve called her a “foreigner,” and it shocked Neeve because no one dared to raise their voice to a royal princess before. And then the part where Rose told Neeve that she had everything since she was born but she just didn’t appreciate it because she longed for a dream that couldn’t come true, and Neeve was wounded after that but served her right after how she treated Rose. Both of them can be harsh to each other but Rose do have much fire inside of her because she was never afraid to talk back when she needed to.

Rose have a lot of sass and aren’t afraid to speak her mind out loud, whereas Neeve was more reserved and doesn’t like to talk back. It was really nice to see both of them ended up becoming friends. I just hope their friendship will continue to thrive in the sequel even though something will happen in the future from the vision both of them saw. Anyway, Neeve’s character may not be my favorite because I still have a hard time trying to connect to her character but maybe that’ll change when I read the sequel. I’m hoping for her not to turn evil at one point.

Thorne is known as the guardian of the forest and his job is to make sure the Darkwood is safe. He was also the one who taught Neeve how to use her magic. He is very charming and knew too much because he is very knowledgable. I liked how he was so protective of both Rose and Neeve, and even willing to answer all of Rose’s questions without feeling annoyed. He was really patient the whole time and even if he was angry, it wasn’t because Rose asked many questions but mainly because the girls did something reckless that can put them in danger. He truly cared for them and it was really nice to see someone who is always kind.

I was wondering if he’s just the guardian of the forest or if his job is more than just that. What I found was that his role is bigger than anyone in this book. His work is tougher than he made it out to be but he did a really good job handling everything on his own. He does have a good heart and overall, his character is really amazing and so well-written. I’m excited to see what will he do next and if he does have other magical abilities aside from what he’d shown in this book.

Kian is the prince of Fiorland who came to live in Castle Raine for keeping the peace between Raine and Fiorland. He’s a great guy with a big personality. As much as his attitude are mostly kind, he can be a bit arrogant too. He was so full of himself only a little but he was still a likable character. He can also be quite hilarious too and his presence in the castle brings so many great things to Rose and Neeve. He was there to ease the tension between the sisters if the two of them ever fought, and he was also just like Rose when she first came to Raine; asking many questions and wanting to know many things that not many people knows. Despite being the youngest prince of Fiorland and is about the same age as the sisters, he is very much a confident young man and he wasn’t even scared living in a foreign land. I can’t wait to see how big his role will be in the next book and how important will he be moving forward.

There’s no romance between the four main characters in this book but it was hinted that all of them have feelings for someone, except there isn’t an actual answer when it comes to their pairings. I was confused whether Thorne and Kian much preferred Neeve or Rose. It was proven that Rose have feelings for Thorne but it wasn’t confirmed if he feels the same, this is more like a one-sided thing the way I see it. He cared for both girls. Whenever he look at Neeve, there was a longing look on his face and it was hard to read him clearly because he usually knew how to hide his emotions really well. And whenever he stood closer to Rose and their skin touched, there was a connection between the two of them and he also gave her a soft and a bit of a longing look. So I wasn’t sure which one he have feelings for.

I do want Thorne to be with Rose because this pairing would be unique and there was already a connection between them. If he ends up with Neeve, it’s predictable considering what both of them really are. Neeve is like an ice queen who doesn’t feel many emotions, and from the beginning it was shown that she and Thorne have a platonic relationship. She never indicate that she have feelings for him but not sure if that will change in the sequel. After all, this is a trilogy and there will be two more books to see how everything plays out, so anything could happen in the next two books.

Kian definitely have feelings for Neeve even though at first he mistook Rose for the actual princess of Raine. The thing between Neeve and Kian is actually one-sided since Neeve doesn’t have the same feelings and her first priority is to be with her actual people, and being in a relationship is probably the last thing she ever think about. When Rose fell ill, Kian was there by her side and helped her get her strength back. They’ve spent quite a lot of time together and there was this one scene at the end when their eyes locked and they looked at each other for more than just a few minutes, Rose said how she felt something more than just a friendship during that moment. Kian also shamelessly admit beforehand that he found her fit to be a prince’s wife, not only because she’s beautiful or have great manners but also because of how intelligent she is. And the ending when he laced his fingers with hers, that small gesture was sweet.

I’m conflicted whether I want Rose to be with Thorne or Kian after that, but I still strongly love to see Thorne and Rose as a couple, and Kian with Neeve. I don’t know how the author will pair up these characters but whatever the pairings will be, I hope it make sense. I’m fine with any I can get, as long as Rose gets to be happy and she become someone’s important world instead of an afterthought or the second best. Poor her for feeling like an outcast the whole time. I just want to give her a hug.

Lastly, I want to add that I hope to see Rose’s mother being more caring toward Rose, and I want to see more of their mother-daughter bonding time. It was sad seeing how her mother only care when she fell ill, other than that she was treated like she didn’t exist. It hurts my heart when Rose cried out the word “mama” whenever she was ill. Her mother always came to her during those times but when she was healthy, her mother doesn’t even bat an eye at her. I was happy to see deep down her mother actually cared for her but still her little action wasn’t enough. I hope this will be fix in the sequel.

Overall, this book was really captivating and interesting. I loved how everything plays out in this book. The journey of the two sisters begins here and there are many more things to come, and many obstacles coming their way. I’m looking forward to see what will happen next and what roles will Thorne and Kian have in Rose and Neeve’s story. The adventure of these four characters will continue in the next book, and the ending of this book made me feel excited to read the next one. There are many things to be explored and discovered, and I hope everything will delivered really well in the next book. Honestly, this is the most beautiful fairytale retelling story I ever read. If anyone is looking for a simple fairytale retelling book but with higher stakes and jaw-dropping surprises, this book is the real deal. I highly recommend this to everyone who always feel enchanted by fairytales.



ANTHEA SHARP is the USA Today bestselling author of the award-winning Feyland series—where a high-tech game opens a gateway to the treacherous Realm of Faerie—and the Darkwood Chronicles, a prequel series to the Darkwood Trilogy, where humans and Dark Elves inhabit a lush fantasy world full of magic and danger. She currently splits her year between sunny Southern California and the novel-inspiring forests of the Pacific Northwest.




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