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monarch Monarch (TWP #3) by A.R. Ivanovich | Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5)

"If circumstances in life were always changing, shouldn't that mean people could change, too? Every moment should be a platform for positive growth and new possibilities."

As a note, an e-galley of this novel was sent to me via NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.

This review contains spoilers. Following the startling events of Paperglass, our series The War of Princes continues with a third book, Monarch–nothing can prepare us for the plot twists and revelations revealed in this third installment and I must admit: it is the best boo yet. If you have been following this series, you’ll find that the stakes are higher in Monarch and the adventures keep on coming.

A.R. Ivanovich takes her uniquely fun and dangerous world to a whole new level in Monarch. Katelyn Kestrel and her friends, Dylan, Kyle, Ruby and Rune, and their pilot Carmine and former teacher in Haven Professor Block, are faced with all kinds of new adventures and risks. While the group recovers from the loss of Sterling (I’m still heartbroken!) a new sense of urgency is portrayed within this circle.

In every meaning of the previous events, things could have been torn apart for this group. And yet, in some ways, they are now closer and more determined than ever.

Most changed is Ruby, well aside from Katelyn as well, who has taken it upon herself to learn how to fight for what is right and protect herself. Actually, scratch that--in so many ways all of the characters have changed immensely since their introduction. Dylan is still harsh around the edges but a lot warmer than he was. Katelyn, Ruby and Kyle are all growing beyond their Haven mindsets. Rune is no longer a Dragoon--not really, anyways.

Each character has lost something. Each character has gained something else.

Ruby's, I think, is the most striking. Her loss of Sterling, who was her boyfriend, is something that motivates her in the decision to not stand down and fight. And I have to say it is, if I only complain of one thing, disappointing that we don’t see much of her in this one. Or any of the previous ones. Because she is definitely strong in many ways and decidedly the anchor of the stories heart.

But enough of that. There is still time to be hopeful that this changes–I need more Ruby! And more of the dynamic between Ruby, Kyle and Katelyn. My. Children.

Let’s step back and study the plots unfolding.

Everyone is at risk. Everyone in this world. And now, after Rune’s rebellion, the world could very well set on fire. It is obvious, without a doubt, that action must be taken. During this time, the gang plans with Lord Brendon ways to protect their cities and the people within.

Deciding that the only way to fight Prince Raserion is to ally themselves with the North: Prince Varion. Because of rebels in Raeserion’s kingdom, they hope to make it safely to Varion in the time before his forces attack them for what has been done. And for the children who they rescued.

It is fast planned that they will split up. Naturally, Lord Brendon will remain in his home. Professor Block and Ruby will return to Haven, to protect their home and loved ones. Dylan, Katelyn, Rune, Kyle and Carmine will travel to the North and speak with the prince.

None of them have the warm and fuzzies about this plan. But determined as ever, they all embark on their adventures and can only hope to travel as safely as possible. Katelyn and her friends are rightfully concerned though: it’s common knowledge that both princes are immortal and less than kind.

Are they making the right decision? She hardly has the chance to think this through as they all try to learn as much as possible about the prince before arriving. And suddenly, unexpectedly, she is drawn into a shadow world that is of Prince Raeserion’s making.

Katelyn is offered a deal: kill his brother and he will let her going freely and spare places that need to be spared or protected. She cannot refuse.

But is the offer too good to be true?

When the group reaches the kingdom, there are many events that occur and they find themselves in a world of danger that is new to them. After pleading their case, they are first met with intrigue only to have that changed last minute and they are captured and thrust into a cell.

They say bad things come in threes. First, they are captured. Second, a mysterious man frees them and offers them a piece of information that is startling and amongst the biggest plot twist to the series yet. After reuniting with Rune and Dylan, who was captured not long after, Kyle and Katelyn are faced with a whole new challenge.

And the only comfort in this twist is knowing that their pilot, Carmine, escaped harms way and is hidden away.

The revelations begin not long after. Prince Varion died.

Years ago.

But when he was killed, it wasn’t permanent–somehow, his body repaired itself and sent him back to the beginning of his own timeline. He was changed from adulthood to childhood in one large sweep and then hidden for his own protection.

If you haven’t read it yet, please overlook my upcoming spoilers….

I mean it. Turn away now.

Prince Varion was hidden in Haven. Twelve years ago, he was hidden there and raised by a pair of guards. He was raised without knowledge of who he is, his memories not there, and given a second shot at childhood. As it happens, Varion is none other than Kyle–who is reluctant to believe that to be true, given how he was raised and how horrible the tales of Varion are.

Using her gift, Katelyn is able to see that it is true. But she is certainly in denial about this. How could her best friend be an immortal prince?

The more she thinks of it, the more sense it makes.

Everything leads back to twelve years ago: when they became friends, when things started to change in Haven bit by bit. It all points back to twelve years ago.

And then there’s his ability to heal. How when others sense his powers they say “it’s too bright” and they can’t figure out what he is. His maturity. His intelligence. His excellence in building things and tinkering with tools and inventions. Kyle Kiteman has always been wise beyond his years, somehow, and suddenly the pieces click together.

Kyle reluctantly agrees to playing the part: his memories are not back. He doesn’t believe any of this to be true and is using it as a way for them to all get back home, and to send help back to Brendon. To keep everyone safe. Reunited with Carmine, the group plans their escape and what will come after a certain celebration.

The third bad thing is how it backfires on them.

Dylan is missing from the celebration and Carmine claims that she saw the boy speaking with mysterious men before burning a piece of paper from the exchange. Katelyn is inexplicably let down by this, though she doesn’t trust him after his betrayal she thought he was changing.

Things go downhill from then on out. I won’t spoil it entirely but there’s an explosive amount of action in the final quarter of the book. A new betrayal is revealed: Carmine isn’t from the North and was a spy all along. Soon, Katelyn is poisoned, Rune is possessed, Kyle is shot and Dylan is still nowhere to be seen.

Katelyn is temporarily paralyzed by what she was pricked with and watches helplessly as Kyle bleeds out before her, while Rune becomes someone else, while Carmine practically taunts and toys with her.

And just like that, things continue to change until our cliff hanger before the fourth installment. Kyle, Varion's, memories are restored. Rune is taken. Carmine fled. Oh, there's so many ways that this story can go! I will say this: A.R. really knows how to build her worlds. She knows how to draw in her readers and keep them on the edge of her seat. I especially liked seeing Katelyn's reaction to Kyle's transition back into Varion--she can't believe her eyes, even if she knew who he was, and part of her wishes that he hadn't gotten those memories back.

In many ways, Kyle and Varion are the same. But Katelyn cannot--should not--bring herself to trust Varion, in spite of the fact that he was Kyle all along. Kyle wasn't faked. That's who he was raised to be. And now, it is like he is two separate people. It is like she watched her friend die and he would never be returned. It's heartbreaking.

Dylan, thankfully, is still there. He hadn't betrayed her this time after all. And now they are both left to pick up the pieces and to find Rune.

While I had my problems with the first book in the series (though still enjoyed it), Monarch is proof that things keep getting better. I have not binge read a series so quickly in so long and I find myself unable to put down these books for any prolonged time. My eyes actually hurt from starring at my Kindle for so long--but I can't look away! It's all so intriguing and unique and fast paced.

Monarch is on fire and deserves so much more attention that it is getting. It’s full of so much action and suspense that it is the sort of novel where your heart feels as though it’s going to beat out of your chest. I love it! I can't wait for the next installment but I must admit, I am nervous.

Can Katelyn and Dylan trust Kyle--Varion? Can he trust them? What is happening to Rune--will they ever get him back? Will Carmine pay for her betrayals? What is happening in Haven--is Katelyn's home still safe? Are her family, Ruby, her townspeople, all still alive?

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