The Golden Prince clearly wasn't the historical fiction I was looking for, but since my 2015 resolution is to read more historical fiction, I picked up another book right after: Grave Mercy.
Though Grave Mercy is a combination of historical fiction and fantasy, it was just the book I needed. I LOVED IT and if you love Reign (the tv-show), I can guarantee you'll love this too. If you don't, then you'll probably still love this book because it's that amazing!
I wanted to copy the Goodreads summary here (as I usually do), but I honestly don't think it does the book justice, so I'll summarize it and try to do it spoiler-free!
It's 19th century Britannia and Ismae is seventeen years old when she is married off to a farmer. During their wedding night, he discovers that she has strange scars all over her back and decides to beat her up. Ismae is saved by a local "herbal woman", who transports her to a covent. The covent honours the God of Death. Turns out that Ismae is his daughter and the scars on her back are proof that she cannot be killed (though her mother tried).
Now this covent is not very Sound of Music like. These nuns kill in the name of the God - the God marks people and shows the nuns how they should kill that person. Ismae is trained by the nuns and then send out on a mission at court.
Ismae, can we be best friends?
So as you can probably tell from the summary, Grave Mercy incorporates elements of magic in a historical timeframe. The book still read a lot like a historical novel to me, but if you want a completely truthful account, this is not the book for you (and you should probably read a textbook instead of fiction).
If you don't mind some magic, then you'll love the book and mostly important Ismae. She's our main character and we see everything through her eyes. This is extremely effective in this book, because there's a constant question of who's good and who's evil. By only seeing what Ismae sees, the reader struggles with that question and that's what keeps you reading.
Ismae is a teenager that's mature beyond her age, meaning that even though this is officially a young adult book, it doesn't really read like one. She's very goal-focused and is not easily distracted by men.
Furthermore, she's just so damn realistic. She had a rough life and that made her hard, yet she tries to open up and let people in her life. This is hard for Ismae, but I admired her so much for that - she really is a survivor and you keep rooting for her the whole way through.
Cliché love story and badass action
The only thing I didn't like about this story is that some elements are so cliché. Ismae is put in the household of a youngish, rich, good-looking noble man. Now I don't need to tell you how that will end - the moment you read that, you know. It doesn't ruin the book, and I actually loved seeing Ismae fall in love with someone because it showed a different side to her, but I just wish it was done in a less cliché way. Why not someone more unexpected? This constant bickering turning into romance has been done so many times that it got boring to read.
That being said, for me the action made up for the romance part. Whenever Ismae had to beat someone up, it was unexpected, surprising and always more kickass than I thought it would be. I loved seeing a girl use her femininity to beat people up. If I had to compare her to another fictional character, it would be Black Widow: she's a woman and she will forever stay feminine, but she'll use that to seduce you and then kill you. Yes. Perfect kind of protagonist.
Even though the romance was flawed, I have to give this book five stars. I just LOVED it so much and was so in love with Ismae and her world that I just wish I could read it for the first time again. It's going to take a long time before I stop pushing people to read this book, because seriously, READ IT!