By Cynthia Bujnicki
Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, only has one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin? However, when Leo’s childhood friend and first love Elliot returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one that got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now, he is the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. Nevertheless, old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself falling for her first love in a game of love, lies, and past regrets.
This novel is reminiscent of Persuasion, The Great Gatsby and Wuthering Heights, where the scorned lover leaves and returns with a vast fortune.
The story offers much political upheaval, using the return of the scorned lover to evaluate social standing. In space, matchmaking it done for politics, power, and financial security. Princess Leo, who hates the princess title, is forced to participate in the quadrennial matchmaking ceremony for financial security since her family is going broke. It is a far cry from what she wants, to marry the boy she let walk away and prove herself as an inventor. It speaks to the inconsequential and archaic use of titles, on how little they matter.
This novel also works well on criticizing the class standing and the unfairness of it as well as the result: rich getting richer off the back of the middle and lower class who continue to get poorer and suffer. It makes for a relevant read as it analyzes class status, ripping and exposing the flaws that are detrimental to society.
Having a protagonist who is also curvy and inventive is also a nice break from the traditional narrative. Leo has such a great personality. Elliot, on the other hand, lacks the charisma For the first half of the novel. It is understandable for him to be angry and hateful but he is not even a little likable so the reader has a hard time connecting to him.
Overall, characterization aside, it is a compelling novel with a strong female protagonist. (★★★☆☆)