Castles in Their Bones by Laura Sebastian defied all our expectations except one: We knew we’d love it. And we did.
When I picked up Castles in Their Bones, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and I mean that in the absolute best way. The synopsis, while sounding just unique enough, still gave me the feeling that I at least had some idea of what to expect, especially after having read Laura Sebastian’s Ash Princess Trilogy. I just…I can’t express how much I loved being thrown for a loop—and not just once but many, many times.
This story has not one, but three, heroines: Triplet princesses, born and bred to help their mother, Empress Margaux, essentially burn the world down so she could sweep in and claim it as her own. That in and of itself is enough of an interesting departure from so many beloved YA stories mixing royalty and magic. But then, everything that comes after learning who these people are and what they’ve set out to do just…throws the book I thought I was going to read right out the window. Repeatedly. The best plan, after all, is a flexible one, as Margaux has often told her daughters.
In that same vein, one of the most striking elements of the story was just how much it destroyed archetypes and expectations—not just mine, as a reader, but even the characters’ beliefs about themselves. It’s like they were all manipulated into believing they could only ever be one thing, that they had no choice in the matter…But when given the chance, when life showed them something else, they learned how much more they were—some more quickly and willingly than others.
Princess Beatriz is described, from the start, as “the pretty one” and expected to do her part of Castles in Their Bones‘ central mission mostly by using her looks and skill at seduction to her advantage. But that utterly fails, pretty much from the second she leaves her home country of Bessemia to try and sow the seeds of conflict in Cellaria. The very people whom she’s supposed to seduce want just about nothing to do with her, and the one person she can’t bring herself to cross that particular line with definitely wants it.
Or, maybe a reader will be more of a Sophronia: considered “too soft” in a lot of ways, yet quite possibly one of the toughest young women recently put on the page. Any success she has is the result of being both compassionate and calculating. In many ways, it’s the side of her character that’s considered a weakness that proves to be her greatest strength, and she has so much growth in so little time, it’s kind of unfair. Especially considering…
Well. Let’s just say Laura Sebastian is going to be getting a lot of “how dare you” tweets once everyone has the chance to devour this page-turner. So, basically, just a few hours after the book is in your hands, you’ll be tweeting about it. A lot.
And then, there’s Princess Daphne, the middle child, the one considered most like her mother—the most “cold.” So, of course, it’s the outer coldness of Friv that she can’t handle because, whether she wants to admit it to herself or not, what she’s got inside is much, much warmer than she’s ever given herself credit for. Whenever the sequel to Castles in Their Bones drops, she’s the one I’m most excited to learn more about. And while all three sisters were shipped off to marry members of the monarchy in their respective countries (Cellaria for Beatriz, Temarin for Sophronia, and Friv for Daphne), it’s Daphne’s excruciatingly slow burn I’m hoping will turn to fire by the time this saga completely ends.
Like, you know that whole, “ugh. You irritate me” dynamic that, quite often, turns into the best ship? Daphne’s in it. And there’s one moment, when she isn’t physically capable of putting up those walls her mother has built for her, that is exactly the stuff shippers swoon over. Every. Single. Time.
So, we’ve got a ship (kind of a trio of ships…but one big ship). We’ve got constant twists and turns, danger, mystery, a plot to take over the world, heartbreak, and so much more. The magical element of this story, for instance, takes the concept of wishing on a star and even makes it something totally new. And it’s a very subtle, yet vital, part of the story—especially for Beatriz, who is sent to a world that is very much like Camelot under the reign of Uther Pendragon.
Honestly, the only thing I didn’t like about Castles in Their Bones was that it ended. Not only did it end, but it ended there, like that. Laura Sebastian has mentioned, via Twitter, that she hasn’t seen any early readers say they’ve seen the ending twist coming. Count me down as one of the people who was completely floored by it. But I will say this: There are many, many clever hints that there’s something more going on here…But there’s just so much else happening that we don’t see how they all added up until we get pretty much punched in the throat with the outcome. Or, at least, that’s how it feels for me.
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?