Publishing Date: April 7
Genre: young adult, contemporary, fantasy
Life is almost back to normal for Harper Price. The Ephors have been silent after their deadly attack at Cotillion months ago, and best friend Bee has returned after a mysterious disappearance. Now Harper can return her focus to the important things in life: school, canoodling with David, her nemesis-turned-ward-slash-boyfie, and even competing in the Miss Pine Grove pageant.
Unfortunately, supernatural chores are never done. The Ephors have decided they’d rather train David than kill him. The catch: Harper has to come along for the ride, but she can’t stay David’s Paladin unless she undergoes an ancient trial that will either kill her . . . or connect her to David for life.
After the devastating events of Cotillion last Christmas, Harper Price is ready to get back to her normal lifestyle — even with the added Paladin duties for her boyfriend/Oracle David. But the Ephors have something else in mind, and it involves David not getting killed. Harper has to prove to them she can be the best Paladin by undergoing several life-threatening trials. As the Miss Pine Grove pageant moves ever closer to the final trial, Harper, David, Bee, and Ryan are pulled in different directions, and knowing who to trust is completely up in the air.
Harper is still controlling, sassy, funny, and smart, but being a Paladin after such devastating events is really taking a toll on her. Ryan, a new Mage, and David, an Oracle, aren’t exactly helping matters. They’re three teens who have absolutely no idea what they’re doing, and all of their training now comes from books and leftover materials from the late Saylor’s home. So when the Ephors show up and tell them they’re not bad people out to kill David, it really is genuinely hard to tell if they’re being honest or if there’s something up their sleeves. Thrown in the fact Bee is alive, well, and also a new Paladin, and things become riotously complicated.
The trials Harper experiences are meant to be traumatic for her and her alone. The Ephors target the people and places Harper cares about most. It’s meant to test her physical, mental, and emotional strength. Poor thing begins to crack from the pressure, and I kept gripping the book, begging her to keep moving, to keep going on, that she could do this! The scene in which she spills the beans to one of her aunts was quite possibly my favorite. The whole reaction sequence reminded me of Buffy once more. (And, speaking of Buffy, I would say this mirrors the middle seasons of the show, around the time Angel became evil again. You know, still fun and humorous but definitely darker.)
From everyday teen drama (who is dating again? Who broke up?) to life-threatening scenarios (get OUT of the Fun House, Harper!), Harper and David are tested to the limit, and will leave you on the edge of your seat, waiting to see what happens in the next installment of the Southern Rebel Belle trilogy.
Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from Putnam for review!