The year is 1871, and Tiki has been making a home for herself and her family of orphans in a deserted hideaway adjoining Charing Cross Station in central London. Their only means of survival is by picking pockets. One December night, Tiki steals a ring, and sets off a chain of events that could lead to all-out war with the Fey. For the ring belongs to Queen Victoria, and it binds the rulers of England and the realm of Faerie to peace. With the ring missing, a rebel group of faeries hopes to break the treaty with dark magic and blood—Tiki’s blood.
Unbeknownst to Tiki, she is being watched—and protected—by Rieker, a fellow thief who suspects she is involved in the disappearance of the ring. Rieker has secrets of his own, and Tiki is not all that she appears to be. Her very existence haunts Prince Leopold, the Queen’s son, who is driven to know more about the mysterious mark that encircles her wrist.
Prince, pauper, and thief—all must work together to secure the treaty…
In her debut novel, Kiki Hamilton has presented readers with a thrill ride adventure through the dangerous underworld of Victorian London, where obtaining the money for a decent meal will require quick hands and deft feet and you can never know quite who to trust. The reader is thrust immediately into the lives of a makeshift family living day-to-day on meager rations and the profits of their pick-pocketing skills. Tiki and her "family" live in an abandoned room with barely a scarp of food or a lump of coal.
To begin with, the setting is fabulous--the gritty streets of London are described in stunning detail, down to the grimy streets and choking, smoke-filled air. I loved the historical setting of the novel and just how perfectly Ms. Hamilton was able to convey that historic sense without shoving it in your face. Even if I hadn't outright known the time period this was set in, I still feel like I would have been able to tell from the well-crafted descriptions of the world.
Tiki was an amazing MC. Her loving nature with her family plus her courageous spirit combine to create a perfect heroine. She's badass while still holding on to the "softness" of a romantic heroine. Her love for her adopted family overshadows everything else in her life and she'll clearly do anything to protect her ragtag family. I felt connected to her from the get-go. One thing that really struck me about her character is that it's almost hard to get a real read on her age. I'm pretty sure that you find out at some point, but throughout there were definitely moments when she displayed courage and heart beyond her years and other moments where she displayed a very childlike wonder and ignorance.
Rieker is a fabulous love interest (in my opinion). I love the mystery surrounding him and Tiki's surprise when he reveals himself (although the reader has figured it out long before (or at least I did!)). I thought that his love for Tiki was properly developed, even if maybe he does come across as a little stalkerish at times. This was definitely believable and heart-warming romance at its best. I was rooting for this couple the whole way through--even when the characters didn't really show an inclination to become such.
I can't say enough about the characters that Ms. Hamilton has created. Each of the side characters strikes me as real and important. I love the little moments throughout when we get to see their individual personalities shine through. I even appreciated the short moments when we saw the world through Leo's POV. He is a character that I think has a lot more to say and if Ms. Hamilton continues writing in this world, I don't think Leo will be ignored.
The story is fabulous in and of itself. The magic of Ms. Hamilton's story will pull you through--page-by-page-- and leave you breathless and begging for more when you've turned the last page. I couldn't help but want to dive right back into this world as soon as I had finished it. The lyrical, descriptive writing creates a vivid story with characters that you feel like you know. This is definitely a breath-taking debut novel that makes me incredibly excited to see what this author will do in the future. Bring it on, Ms. Hamilton because I'm ready for more!