Mellea seems like any other seventeen year old girl. She is working a job in the city to help her underprivileged family while she saves money up to go to school. Then we find out that Mellea lives in the world of Selestia, ruled by the mysterious and possibly magic Guardians. Mellea's father absolutely hates the Guardians and everything they stand for due to a dispute years ago. Mellea's father won't even let her read a newspaper article about them and he really dislikes that Mellea works in the big city of Poridos, where the crystal towers of the royal Guardian family are located. When Mellea is leaving Poridos City after work one day, she comes across a young man that has been shot. She insists on helping him and staying with him until help arrives, even though it seems like that is the last thing that the man wants and he is rude, arrogant and kind of a jerk. This is why it is such a surprise to Mellea that the man she tried to help is a Successor to the Guardian throne, Leo; and for some reason he has chosen Mellea to be his bride. Now, Mellea finds herself bound to a man she hates and trapped in the crystal towers with the family that her father despises.
I ended up loving this story. It is a good mix of fantasy, science fiction, romance and action. Any young woman will find it easy to identify with Mellea's character. She is down to earth, brave even in uncertainty and does not fall in love with the hunky Guardian Successor just because he's cute and has dreamy blue eyes. In fact, Mellea fights their engagement almost every step of the way. At first, I was very confused at why Leo chose to be bound to Mellea (as was Mellea), but as the story progresses, Mellea meets other members of the family and gets to know Leo as a real person, they seem to be the perfect match for one another. The world of Selestia is an interesting one, there is the rich, sparkling and plasticy Poridos city where the Guardians live and the less affluent country side where the majority of the population seem to survive. The Towers are the most richly described, as Mellea is trapped in them for most of the story. As Mellea learns more of the history of the Guardians and the Tower, so do we. It seems that M.J. Stevens has put a lot of thought into the world-building of Selestia. I hope we get to explore it more in the next book, Divided. The action really picked up near the end of the book, enough that I had to read until I was finished. A foe from the Guardians past is back to hurt the family, there are a lot of plot twists and turns with Mellea's family and the old enemy to the Guardians. The story ends on a very suspenseful cliffhanger leaving Mellea with many choices to make and decisions of loyalty.