Book Review: THE BEHOLDER by Anna Bright

The Beholder.png
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: Yes - book 1 of duology


the beholder

Selah has waited her whole life for a happily ever after. As the only daughter of the leader of Potomac, she knows her duty is to find the perfect match, a partner who will help secure the future of her people. Now that day has finally come.

But after an excruciatingly public rejection from her closest childhood friend, Selah’s stepmother suggests an unthinkable solution: Selah must set sail across the Atlantic, where a series of potential suitors awaits—and if she doesn’t come home engaged, she shouldn’t come home at all.

From English castle gardens to the fjords of Norge, and under the eye of the dreaded Imperiya Yotne, Selah’s quest will be the journey of a lifetime. But her stepmother’s schemes aren’t the only secrets hiding belowdecks… and the stakes of her voyage may be higher than any happy ending.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


I was a little nervous about making this my first read of the year, because I’d seen really mixed reviews. However, I enjoyed it a lot – far more than I was expecting (I’d guessed it might be a 3 star read).

This is a really hard book to classify. It’s not a traditional fantasy with any magic, but it’s set in an alternative version of our world, late 1800s or early 1600s, I think. The world is that of Europe as the strain of empire starts to show but before the wars, but there is a more mythological feel to the world, thanks to name choices.

The Russian equivalent is taking over land, and America isn’t a unite country but lots of small countries. England also doesn’t appear to have an empire – though it’s just lost an overseas colony. It’s not explained whether this is the only one, or if there are more.

The world allows there is be a slow, creeping undercurrent of politics. No complaints here! It’s not a major focus, but nor are the tensions and political rearrangements of the world ignored. This fits really well with the slower pace, as it lets the writing draw out the world and the implications of the potential marriages.

The writing is gorgeous, so luscious in its descriptions. The feel of the book is very end-of-an-era, grand imperialism tinged with sadness and decay. At the same time, there is life and a sense that this is a more mythological version of our world, a more natural one.

The main focus of the book is the romance – or rather, romances. I’m not a huge romance reader, and they both felt rather fast for me (a skeptic at falling-in-love in a fortnight). However, the world more than made up for that, and the ending hints at the second book being far more about the world and the politics than the romance. I’m excited to see where the story goes next in THE BOUNDLESS.

Selah also gets a lovely arc about confidence in herself and strengths. The characters in England felt more distinct than those in Norge, because the English got more staggered introductions than the gaggle of brothers in Norge (who blurred together).

This is a book for those who like slower paced books, and romance lovers. But, if like me, you like the turn of the 20th century world, then this is also a good read.

Read my reviews of other books by Anna Bright:

The Beholder (this series):


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