Sisters Lu and Min have always known their places as the princesses of the Empire of the First Flame: assertive Lu will be named her father's heir and become the dynasty's first female ruler, while timid Min will lead a quiet life in Lu's shadow.
Until their father names their male cousin Set his heir instead, sending ripples through the realm and throwing both girls' lives into utter chaos.
Determined to reclaim her birthright, Lu has no choice but to go on the run, leaving Min to face the volatile court alone. Lu soon crosses paths with Nokhai, the lone, unlikely survivor of the Ashina, a clan of nomadic wolf shapeshifters. Nok never learned to shift--or to trust the empire that killed his family--but working with the princess might be the only way to unlock his true power.
As Lu and Nok form a shaky alliance, Min's own hidden power awakens, a forbidden, deadly magic that could secure Set's reign . . . or allow her to claim the throne herself. But there can only be one emperor, and the sisters' greatest enemy could very well turn out to be each other.
This sweeping fantasy set against a world of buried ancient magic and political intrigue weaves an unforgettable story of ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice.
“[A] masterful blend of Asian history with a touch of fantasy. . . . Yu crafts a rich tale filled with detailed world-building that draws readers in. This mainly female-led ambitious adventure will appeal to fans of Graceling by Kristin Cashore and The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi.” ―School Library Journal, starred review
“[W]ith its Asia-inspired worldbuilding, lush descriptions, and a weighty sense of history, this sprawling fantasy is . . . a strong debut.” ―Publishers Weekly
“A fast-paced, seamless fantasy adventure full of action, mysticism, and female empowerment.” ―Booklist
“Recommended for readers who enjoy imperfect characters and complex plots.” ―Kirkus Reviews