Serina is headed to meet the Heir where she hopes she will be chosen as one of the three new Graces - women who serve the Heir in every way. She has been training all her life to be charming, beautiful, and docile to be the perfect Grace. Her sister Nomi is along as her handmaiden. If Serina is chosen, it will mean a better life for their entire family. But when the Graces are announced it turns out that Nomi has been selected by the Heir despite her prickly demeanor. Serina quickly assumes the position of handmaiden to her sister but just as quickly she is in serious trouble after taking responsibility for the book Nomi had in her possession. Since women are forbidden to read, Serina is sent to Mount Ruin where tribes of women are forced to survive and fight to the death to get a few extra scraps of food. With the Heir's birthday coming up, Nomi forms an alliance with the younger prince to try to change the status quo in the kingdom and get her sister back.
I was so captivated with this book the whole way through. I liked both women and Banghart did a great job of having Serina roll with the punches - sometimes literally - despite the fact that she never expected to be anything other than arm candy. After they are separated both women are dedicated to finding each other again and doing what it takes to make that happen but I didn't feel that they were all that devoted to each other as the story began so that's a flaw for me. I totally saw the twist with the Heir coming (because I've read other books) but that just made me wish I was wrong as I progressed to that point. And I am truly sad that I wasn't wrong. This is just a fun adventure with some good feminist themes for teens and good characters.