I’ve read and enjoyed Olivia Wildenstein’s books before, and the blurb for this one really caught my interest. It definitely lives up to it, as well! This is an enjoyable and high stakes young adult paranormal romance, all set in a small French town.
Slate, professional thief and survivor of the foster care system, has always figured he was abandoned by his parents. So he’s shocked and angry to receive a letter – and birth certificate – claiming that he’s the only surviving member of one of a small Breton town’s founding families. That anger propels him to Brume, supposed birthplace of magic, and into some questionable choices. A moment of drunk revenge leads to Slate being saddled with a curse: he and the descendants of the other three founding families must find and reassemble the Quatrefoil pieces by the next new moon, unleashing magic back into the world, or the chance to do so will be lost – and Slate will die.
“You don’t strike me as a librarian.”
“You don’t strike me as a student.”
His lips quirk. “What do I strike you as?”
“And criminals aren’t allowed to be educated?”
The story is told from the dual POVs of Cadence and Slate, our two young protagonists. From the start, Slate got on my nerves. Yes, he had a rough childhood in foster care, and yes, he has every reason to be angry that Rainier, Cadence’s father, seems to have known about his existence but never bothered contacting him before, but I had a hard time reconciling his “rich and accomplished thief” persona with his actions at the beginning of the book. As the book progressed and he dropped some of his bravado nonsense, he did grow on me, though. For her part, Cadence is struggling with the fact that her beloved Papa kept the truth about her mother’s death and his injuries from her, plus, you know, the whole “magic is real and you’re part of the bloodline that can bring it back” thing. Luckily, she’s been fascinated with the magical history of Brume since she was a child, and even works as a librarian in the town’s archives. She’s no-nonsense and brave, and I loved the heck out of her.
“There are two surefire ways to get a woman: wooing her and wearing her down. Since you keep objecting to being wooed, I’ve elected to wear you down.”
It’s clear that the relationship between Cadence and Slate is the main focus of the book. From the first moment they meet, they’re unreasonably attracted to each other, and before he knows it, Slate is experiencing all these weird *feelings.* Look, Cadence is the clichéd good girl – she’s a librarian at 17 for goodness’ sake – and Slate is the clichéd bad boy (only because of his tragic past, of course), so naturally they’re going to fall in love. It was a bit eyeroll worthy to me, but once I accepted it for what it was, it was pretty good fun. The banter between them was hilarious, even if it did sometimes border on the overly crass (thanks, Slate). And, of course, Slate’s the one who’s the farthest gone first, so he has to wait for Cadence to come to terms with her feelings for a, as she puts it, “thug.” Slate’s willingness to do this – to not push too hard – was one of the things that finally entered him to me.
“What a team we make—a preppy professor, a woman with a yarn fetish, and a girl way too pure of heart for all this bullshit. The ultimate underdogs.”
While Slate and Cadence are both young adults, their team is rounded out by Adrien, a 20’s-ish history professor and Cadence’s secret crush, and Gaëlle, a mother of twins. It’s not exactly your usual young adult fantasy team and, honestly, I appreciated the different perspectives. Cadence’s father, Rainier, is the only person who was around for the last attempt at reuniting the pieces, which means he’s their primary source for any Quatrefoil-related information, besides what any of them can rustle up from the archives. As for other side characters, each main character also has their best friends, Bastian and Alma. Sometimes it felt like they were there only so they had someone to talk to about their new and definitely unwanted crushes, but they were each interesting characters.
As for the worldbuilding and adventure plot, I thought both were well-done. Brume felt suitably magical and terrifying and I found the history of the Quatrefoil engaging. Each of the attempts to recover the pieces builds on the previous ones, and the stakes kept building. The pacing was a little more rough for me. The book starts out slowly and while it does pick up pace, it seemed to move in uneven fits and starts. At points it was impossible to put down, and then then there were other sections where it took me a day to get through two chapters. The last quarter of the book, where it became clear that things were not quite as they seemed, was excellent, and definitely made me want to pick up the next book so I can see if my guesses are correct.
Overall, while the pacing wasn’t great, I enjoyed the book and will be looking forward to seeing what happens next!