Society girls from New York City circa 1890, Dacia and Lou never desired to know more about their lineage, instead preferring to gossip about the mysterious Romanian family that they barely knew. But upon turning seventeen, the girls must return to their homeland to meet their relatives, find proper husbands, and—most terrifyingly—learn the deep family secrets of The Claw, The Wing, and The Smoke. The Florescus, after all, are shape-shifters, and it is time for Dacia and Lou to fulfill the prophecy that demands their acceptance of this fate… or fight against this cruel inheritance with all their might.
With a gorgeous Romanian setting, stunning Parisian gowns, and dark brooding young men, readers will be swept up by this epic adventure of two girls in a battle for their lives.
I remember when ARCs first starting coming out that there was excitement within the blogger community: the cover is quite striking and perhaps one of my favorites in some time and the premise was intriguing as well. I also remember the excitement dying relatively quickly to boot. With a rather tepid 3.42 rating on Goodreads at time of review, it would seem that it never quite caught on with the larger reading public either.
I can kinda see why.
This isn’t a bad book, so much as a book that I don’t think lived up to its potential because it wasn’t quite sure what it wanted to be. It had airs of being a Gothic romance, but there was seemingly no romance to speak of, other than references to The Incident that occurred with Dacia before the book began and yet, but the end of the books both girls seemingly have suitors because? The book promises an “epic adventure” but there’s actually rather little action in the story proper. I even see shades of Gail Carriger in the somewhat flippant way discussion of fashion is interspersed with the story at hand. I feel like she had a solid concept but did not know how to execute it.
In terms of the story, it takes almost halfway through the book to find out what the family secret is in its entirety. Too bad that between the cover, an early sequence, and references to Dracula that readers can figure it out in the first few chapters, making the build up seem overlong. Second, the villains are Villains. I suppose that the grandmother would fit right in a Gothic horror, but there wasn’t enough horror to call it as such. The other main villain (which I will not spoil here) has slightly more nuance but it’s no great surprised what they turn out to be the other villain. It’s all just there.
The other major problem is characterizations, or more precisely, how characters seemingly flip on a dime. At the start, Lou is seen as the nervous one and Dacia the brash and bold. By the three-quarter mark, their roles are almost entirely reversed. The explanation provided doesn’t make a great deal of sense, as forms are dictated by personality, but the form that Lou ultimately gets – the one that is supposed to lead the family – apparently seeks out those with traits diametrically opposed to what a leader would have. But instead of going back to the drawing board to fix it, she just flips a switch. It’s a lazy at best fix that just doesn’t work.
Although Goodreads is listing this as the first book in a series, and even though the ending is open-ended enough to allow for sequels down the road, apparently this book is currently a stand-alone. That’s probably for the best. I don’t think there’s enough meat on the bones to support an expansion of the series.
Verdict: Skip It