Review: A Last Hope

The aptly titled A Last Hope is the final book in the Hope Ever After series. I received an ARC from the author, Verity Sandahl to read before its release date on July 17th. This book is a gender-bent retelling of "King Thrushbeard" and contains a unique take on the story in a fantasy setting. Like all the books in this series, proceeds on sales will go toward Operation Underground Railroad to help fight against child sex trafficking and protect children from exploitation. This book has more Christian messaging than the other Hope Ever After books I've read, but it was still enjoyable as someone from a different religious denomination. The story focuses heavily on star-crossed lovers, which is my favorite type of romance.

Princess Arianna hails from the Thrush kingdom whose royalty has the ability to fly. Prince Marc, from an enemy kingdom, is an empath, who can read people's emotions by touching them. When the two take an illicit flight as children, they form a deep bond that Arianna begrudgingly recognizes as soulmates. When Marc is unable to rescue her from an attack on her kingdom after their first encounter, she blames him and holds him responsible for the mutual violence and corruption of their monarchies for many years. As an adult, Arianna takes on a new identity as Aria, a peasant tanner, and draws the attention of Marc, who is now king. Though he recognizes her at first, she manages to convince him that she is a different person, but that doesn't stop him from falling in love with her all over again. He is happy to have her at his side even after his brother betrays him and takes away his crown.

This book cleverly weaves in elements of "King Thrushbeard" while telling an original story of the power of forgiveness. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was gender-bent because that is something I rarely see from this fairy tale. Allowing the male character to learn humility instead of a spoiled princess gives the story a new sense of perspective. Yet, the princess in this tale has an important lesson to learn as well, putting both characters on equal ground. The depth of Arianna's character is fascinating. On the outside, she hates Marc and blames him for everything that happened to her family, but deep down, she craves his love and secretly cares for him the same way he does for her. Ultimately, both characters would need to open their hearts to each other to save their kingdoms.

Although the romance between Arianna and Marc was the heart of this book, it also has a great supporting cast. Marc's brother, Thomis, is a calculating yet supportive prince with an agenda of his own and a secret ability that is revealed much later. Arianna's friend, Casimir, a rebel captive, motivates her to get close to Marc so she can rescue him. He is the leader of the rebellion to take back her kingdom, and many of her decisions throughout the book revolve around her desire to help him. When Marc learns of his alliance with Casimir, it causes him to question their marriage. It is his undying faith in her that saves everyone in the end.

A Last Hope by Verity Sandahl is a thrilling gender-bent adaptation of "King Thrushbeard" that masterfully weaves elements of forgiveness, humility, and love. With its unique fantasy setting, complex characters, and original storyline, this book is a must-read for fans of fairy tale retellings. The depth of the characters and the power of their love make this story unforgettable. I'm so glad I got to read this book, and I'm sure you will be too. Don't miss out on this thrilling conclusion to the Hope Ever After series, and remember that proceeds from this book will support a great cause - fighting against child sex trafficking and protecting children from exploitation.


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