Many thanks to the author for the review copy.
Flora Hamilton is three days away from turning 21. She’s also three days away from her Day of Sacrifice, the day she must give up her life in a blood-stained ritual in order to ensure the gods bless her family. With only three days left to live, she should be out partying, but a rivalling family is out to make sure Flora won’t live to see 21. Forced on the run with handsome guardian angel Julian, Flora is beginning to realize that what she has prepared for her whole life may be nothing more than a lie…. and that there’s something worth living for, after all.
Day of Sacrifice is a fast-paced romantic fantasy novella which serves mainly as a teaser into the world S.W. Benefiel is developing, a world of supernaturals, powerful families, blood-hungry gods, and an almost barbaric ritual of sacrificing one’s firstborn in order to receive the gods’ favour. Coming of age has never been worse.
Main character Flora Hamilton is not like the other sacrifices. She’s impulsive, with a vivacity of spirit that is surprising in one who has always known when and why she will die. And she is very much the type not to give up easily, even dedicating her time to learning witchcraft when many Sacrifices do not apply themselves to study. When Flora’s headstrong behaviour makes her Guardian Angel quit on the spot, it’s time for a new Guardian to step into place for the last three days of her life: Julian, the only angel she’s ever felt a connection with. But this connection may be dangerous to explore.
I enjoyed the world-building in this story, and its mixture of almost mafia families with the supernatural. There seems to be a multi-layered plot afoot, leaving you wondering how the ritual of the Day of Sacrifice came about and why the families would follow a tradition that loses them children. But as this is only a novella, much is left unexplained — if anything, Day of Sacrifice feels like a prequel to a much larger story.
While the novella does an excellent job of setting up for future books in the series, both by establishing the relationship between Julian and Flora, as well as giving insight into the Day of Sacrifice ritual, I was left a little dissatisfied, as if the story were all gravy and no meat. It doesn’t help that the progression in Julian and Flora’s relationship felt a little forced to me, a little too quick a change from her being abstinent to being in love. While the quick development of the relationship could be partially explained by Flora’s impulsiveness, I didn’t find it believable that someone as responsible as Julian would allow himself to be dragged along. I suppose my main critique is that I didn’t find the characters as believable as the setting.
However, considering the novella’s length, Benefiel has packed an impressive amount of world-building into a short space, which will give her a lot of room to work with in the next book of the series.
In sum, if you’re looking for a bite-sized suspenseful urban fantasy tale with strong romantic elements, this might be a book for you.