Do you like ancient evil stirring up dark magic? Sword-wielding girls with far too many secrets? Cinnamon roll boys who happen to be princes? Then do I have the book for you!

Jennesara’s kingdom is in trouble. There’s a traitor in the castle and war presses in on all borders. And Jennesara can help. She knows she can.

But her father has other plans.

The King sends her to a neighboring kingdom, betrothed to their prince. It’s a credit to Flanders ability to develop characters here, because this isn’t the dramatic clash of wills that it could be. Instead we see a worried King and a caring daughter. He explains their need to find allies and she sees the strategic benefits this alliance would bring. So she goes.

This is actually part of her personality I enjoyed a lot. She is grounded, logical, and deliberate in her actions. Too often in YA fantasy, even with the strong heroine trope, we get girls who act rashly or let their emotions run away with them. And it isn’t that Jenna is devoid of emotion. She isn’t. But her thoughts, her reactions, her emotions, all ring true for a level-headed teenager and seriously, I am here for more of that!

Halfway to the kingdom of Turia, their convoy is ambushed and Jenna barely escapes into the Wild with her life.

The Wild is one of my favorite parts of this book. A lush forest that is so alive, it’s almost a character in its own right. The descriptions are vivid and I wondered at the Wild’s motivation, because it clearly behaved with certain goals in mind.

When she finally makes it out, the magic has taken a toll on her body but she’s made it to Turia. Only to find out the two kingdoms are at war.

Up until this point, the pace of this book has been a pretty consistent jog. We’re moving, with some spectacular moments of tension to very needed softer scenes. But once Jenna reaches Turia, we speed up into a steady run, and then towards the end we ratchet up to an all-out sprint.

So, the magic. This is an interesting part of the book because no one really understands magic. We learn that it was banished as an attempt to make sure no one ever becomes powerful enough to terrorize the people. Which is bold for sure, and remarkably well-intentioned. But magic still exists. Jenna can feel tethers between her and her family. And her brother Ren can heal. But there’s strange new magic rising up on the borders, which is why they’re losing the war.

When Jenna’s convoy is attacked, it’s by a powerful mage who sends shadow hunters after her. And the Wild is known for it’s strange magic making people afraid of it. I love when I get to go on a journey of discovery with a character, and Shielded does a marvelous job with this. It also helps with the pacing because the more we learn, the higher the stakes get, until we’re practically breathless by the end.

Prince Enzo is also a breath of fresh YA air. A Prince who cares about his kingdom. Who isn’t a jerk or some broody pain in the ass. He is a lovely counter to Jenna’s own pragmatic traits and I really enjoyed reading their sweet romance. This isn’t the swoon-worthy chemistry some characters have, but just because it’s quieter doesn’t mean it isn’t as strong.

In fact, that’s a theme that holds true for this book. There is dark magic and secrets to unfurl and puzzles to solve to save the day. But it doesn’t get taken down strange side plots where drama seems to be the sole purpose. There’s a lot of danger and super high stakes, but there’s also a lot of hope and good propelling Jenna forward. It makes her an easy protagonist to root for. And while dark and twisty is my brand, I admit that I really enjoyed the straight-forward nature of the characters and the book.

In all, this is a fast-paced read that is easily devoured. The only down side is some parts were perhaps too fast-paced, leaving some chances for world-building or character development on the light side. It depends on your preference in the fantasy world and while I would have liked more, the tension was delicious. So it worked for me.

The most important piece for me is the prose, and as you can see from the quotes highlighted above, the writing is sharp and visceral. Two of my favorite things. I love sentences I can wrap around my fingers and twirl around my mouth, and Flanders gives me plenty to satiate all those prosy desires. In all, this is an incredible debut and I can’t wait to read more from this author!

Four stabby stars! Be sure to check out the rest of the tour, link below, and enter for a chance to win a finished copy!

Thank you to TBR Book Tours and Delcorte Press for sending me a copy and including me on this tour.

For fans of Sorcery of Thorns and Furyborn comes a thrilling new fantasy about a kingdom ravaged by war, and the princess who might be the key to saving not only those closest to her, but the kingdom itself, if she reveals the very secret that could destroy her.

The kingdom of Hálendi is in trouble. It’s losing the war at its borders, and rumors of a new, deadlier threat on the horizon have surfaced. Princess Jennesara knows her skills on the battlefield would make her an asset and wants to help, but her father has other plans.

As the second-born heir to the throne, Jenna lacks the firstborn’s–her brother’s–magical abilities, so the king promises her hand in marriage to the prince of neighboring Turia in exchange for resources Hálendi needs. Jenna must leave behind everything she has ever known if she is to give her people a chance at peace.

Only, on the journey to reach her betrothed and new home, the royal caravan is ambushed, and Jenna realizes the rumors were wrong–the new threat is worse than anyone imagined. Now Jenna must decide if revealing a dangerous secret is worth the cost before it’s too late–for her and for her entire kingdom.

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KayLynn Flanders has a degree in English Language and editing, and has been a freelance editor and book designer for over twelve years. Her debut novel, a YA fantasy, will be published by Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House) July 21, 2020. KayLynn and her family live in Utah between some mountains and a lake, and she is directionally challenged without them. She loves reading, writing, traveling, and volleyball, and thinks there’s nothing better than a spur-of-the-moment road trip.


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3 thoughts on “Shielded

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