As the ugly twin to a perfect sister, Princess Laidra lives her life in the shadows—until her parents offer her as bait for a giant serpent.
Her escape attempt leaves her shipwrecked on a secluded island with only one inhabitant: Prince Calen, who lives under a curse. If anyone looks upon him, he turns into a giant serpent. Speaking to him in the darkness, Laidra sees past the monster to Calen’s lonely soul, and she determines to free him from the magic’s hold.
But if Laidra can’t break the curse in time, Calen will become a mindless creature of scales and fangs forever.
From the time that the nature of her gift/curse was described, I was intrigued. This story had the potential to go in so many different directions, and I couldn’t wait to see what Burke did with it. When it turned out that there was a mirror curse—in fact two sets of mirror curses—the plot thickened deliciously.
Laidra is a highly sympathetic main character. Though her detracting characteristic and her talents far exceed normal boundaries in either direction, any reader can relate to feelings of insecurity. Many of us have felt unloved, unwanted, even when a piece of us knows we have worth beyond what others might see. It can leave us feeling without direction or hopeless.
At one point, Laidra prays to an unnamed god, querying her fate in a most poignant way: “You spared me. Whether out of pity or purpose, I know not, but if pity, please give me purpose … and if purpose, please, take pity and let me discover why.” This reverberated through me. What a soulful and earnest desire: to have a purpose for good and to know what it is. This moment is indicative of Laidra’s spirit, and it is what makes her such a sympathetic heroine despite her outward “flaws”.
The plot twists and conflicts are beautifully constructed, and the hints at the Eros and Psyche story of mythology are woven in with both recognizable and unique threads. Mythology lovers, dragon lovers, fantasy lovers–heck, lovers of lovers will all find something to love about this fresh telling of a centuries old legend.
I have a minor concern / warning: the illustration on the cover (gorgeous) lends an air of whimsy and might catch the eye of younger readers. While everything in the book is tastefully handled—from the romantic scenes to the snake attack scenes—there are ongoing references to the need for marriage “consummation”. A ten-year-old picking up the book may not realize that this is talking about breaking a spell via the honeymoon conjugal intercourse, but it does seem more of an adult theme than the cover implies the book carries.