Book Review: Castles in their Bones by Laura Sebastian

Author: Laura Sebastian
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publish Date: February 1, 2022
Print Length: 528

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Official Synopsis
A spellbinding story of three princesses and the destiny they were born for: seduction, conquest, and the crown. Immerse yourself in the first book in a new fantasy trilogy from the author of the New York Times bestselling Ash Princess series.

Empress Margaraux has had plans for her daughters since the day they were born. Princesses Sophronia, Daphne, and Beatriz will be queens. And now, age sixteen, they each must leave their homeland and marry their princes.

Beautiful, smart, and demure, the triplets appear to be the perfect brides—because Margaraux knows there is one common truth: everyone underestimates a girl. Which is a grave mistake. Sophronia, Daphne, and Beatriz are no innocents. They have been trained since birth in the arts of deception, seduction, and violence with a singular goal—to bring down monarchies— and their marriages are merely the first stage of their mother’s grand vision: to one day reign over the entire continent of Vesteria.

The princesses have spent their lives preparing, and now they are ready, each with her own secret skill, and each with a single wish, pulled from the stars. Only, the stars have their own plans—and their mother hasn’t told them all of hers.

Life abroad is a test. Will their loyalties stay true? Or will they learn that they can’t trust anyone—not even each other?

My Review
I received a free, digital, advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. My review is my own and reflects my honest opinion about this book.

After loving Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I’d requested this some time ago on NetGalley. The official synoposis gives an excellent overview of the book. The triplets Sophronia, Daphne, and Beatriz leave Bessemia after their sixteenth birthday to implement their mother’s years of plotting. The ultimate goal: to rule over a united Vesteria. Each is sent to marry the heir of a different court: Sophronia to Temarin, Daphne to Friv, and Beatriz to Cellaria. However, despite careful years of spying, the sisters find that happenings and personalities at court aren’t exactly as expected. They must pivot the art of deception to achieve the Empress’s end goal. But as they become more intimately familiar with the workings of the courts, they begin to question what is right and what is wrong.

Castles in their Bones is told from the points of view of each sister. It took me a few chapters before I could keep everyone organized in my head. However, once I squared away that challenge it was easy to settle into alternating accounts of each sister’s encounters in their respective courts. Sebastian sets up the story such that the readers expects the sisters will already be familiar with what to expect in Temarin, Friv, and Cellaria. Temarin is a country full of vibrancy and life; Friv is to the north, cold and bland in both color and demeanor; and southern Cellaria is conservative and intolerant of any sort of talk or display of magic. Yet when they arrive Sophronia, Daphne, and Beatriz find that years of spying and recent events throw a wrench in their plans.

To go into more detail would introduce spoilers. But, suffice it to say, I enjoyed reading through these curve balls. Empress Margauraux may have laid a road to her best intentions, but she can only control so much. Now the princesses are seemingly on their own, which provides great opportunities for nuanced character development. Loyalties are tested, new ones formed. I can’t decide which storyline is my favorite because they’re all quite different. But if you held a knife to my throat I’d probably pick Beatriz in Cellaria because it’s the most volatile, in my opinion.

I also had a lot of fun guessing at what might happen in the plot. At the ~70% read mark something clicked and I decided to call the anticipated outcome. Overall, I was correct, but the events that unfolded for one of the storylines still surprised me. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the books in this series. I can’t wait to read about how the princesses will overcome their sticky situations.

For those hoping for romance, note that it takes a back seat in this book. Sebastian sets the stage, perhaps, for some romance in the sequels. This book focuses more on setting up the political stage and events that really send everything into quick motion. If you’re searching for a book with strong female protagonists, subterfuge, spies, and Game of Thrones vibes, then look no further. Castles in their Bones checks all of these boxes and more.

Rating: 4.5/5
Content warnings: death
Reading format: Kindle e-book

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