After the destruction of her entire Talon gang, eighteen-year-old Shin Lina—the Reaper of Sunpo—is forced to become a living, breathing weapon for the kingdom’s most-feared crime lord. All that keeps her from turning on her ruthless master is the life of her beloved little sister hanging in the balance. But the order to steal a priceless tapestry from a Dokkaebi temple incites not only the wrath of a legendary immortal, but the beginning of an unwinnable game…
Suddenly Lina finds herself in the dreamlike realm of the Dokkaebi, her fate in the hands of its cruel and captivating emperor. But she can win her life—if she kills him first.
Now a terrible game of life and death has begun, and even Lina’s swift, precise blade is no match for the magnetic Haneul Rui. Lina will have to use every weapon in her arsenal if she wants to outplay this cunning king and save her sister…all before the final grain of sand leaks out of the hourglass.
Because one way or another, she’ll take Rui’s heart.
Even if it means giving up her own.
-Excerpt taken from Goodreads.
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“Dokkaebi are legendary creatures from Korean mythology and folklore. Dokkaebi, also known as “Korean goblins”, are nature deities or spirits possessing extraordinary powers and abilities that are used to interact with humans, at times playing tricks on them and at times helping them.” Wikipedia
(3.5 / 5) Lina finds herself without her Talon gang of assassins. She is forced to work for the opposing gang where she gets wrangled into a bargain with the emperor. The bargain involves either losing his life or hers. While staying at his palace, she plans his death while dreaming of “after” when she can take care of her sister.
I had total cover love with this one! I’ve learned I really love Asian literature so when I found this on Korean mythology I jumped on it.
“Bargains involve promises. Agreements. Honesty. I have to wonder, Pied Piper, how much your word is worth.”
Lina has had a hard life that has led her to this agreement with the emperor. He is the Pied Piper and can magically coerce people very easily. This starts their difficult relationship when she see his humans as slaves. She promises herself she will kill him to be with her sister.
I had a few problems with the story. First off, we hear about her sister a lot, but we get very little information on her. I get that the sister bond is strong but I needed more examples or secret meetings with her to fully be endeared to her. We never really “met” her. Next, I would have liked more stories on the Blackbloods/Talons conflict because other than being the opposing gang, it took a long time to see why they were rivals. Another aspect was that her “big story” from her past came in at the end of the book. There is a lot that works for that. However, I never felt endeared to Lina and I wonder if knowing at least more bits and pieces of that story would have helped me connect with her. It was something huge that shaped her entire existence. I felt in the dark for too long. Also, at times the jumping between timelines became confusing. A title hint or something would have been great.
It sounds like I had a lot of dislikes, and I did, but I was also entertained. The story has great promise and I’m excited to see the next installment!
General content summary: F words: 14, language, cigarettes (multiple, addiction), alcohol (multiple, drunk, underage), intimacy reference (no details), theft, hunger, physical violence and blood, previously a 15yo takes pleasure in killing 7 people, parents killed in a previous shipwreck, stabbing (blood), an assassin’s previous kills (no details), water snake with teeth attacks, near drowning, passionate kisses, intimacy (closed door), fighting with weapons with intention to kill (multiple killed and blood), intense stab of abdomen (some details), “carnage” and blood and gore cover a room from many people killed (some details), stabbing and twisting, near death experience, previous fall down stairs ends in death, a heart is taken out of a chest (few details).
Thank you to Entangled Teen and NetGalley for the gifted copy!
The book releases September 27, 2022.
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