I received a review copy of the book as part of a blog tour for the upcoming sequel in exchange for an honest review. It has not affect my opinions.
Genre: Fantasy Age Range: YA/NA Star Rating: 1.5 stars Series: Yes - book 1
The end of an Empire, The rise of a Queen
Emory Fae enjoys leading a quiet, normal life. That is until two mysterious, and handsome soldiers show up at her apartment, and the life she knew is instantly whisked away. Memphis Carter and Brokk Foster come from the magical and war ridden world of Kiero, and upon Emory’s arrival she will discover she is the long lost heir to the Royal Line and is thrown into the Black Dawn Rebellion with a dynamic role to ignite the rebels and reclaim her throne.
With both men being darkly woven in her past Emory uncovers hidden secrets, a power held long dormant, and will soon realize there are worse things than supernatural humans, love, loss, betrayal, and a Mad King.
Some things are better left in the shadows.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
This is a book that, at best, can be described as laughably bad. It’s a very messy story that made no sense, with inconsistent characters in need of more growth.
I will say this in its defence – there were elements at the start of the book that made me think it had potential to be a twisty book of tangled loyalties and alliances between the kingdoms. And then later on hints of a fun, tropey fantasy about a girl leading a rebellion to take her throne. Unfortunately, it was simply buried by a very messy story that made no sense.
This synopsis above does not properly describe the book. This is actually a re-write/combine of two books that were previously published – a prequel and the first book in a series. The synopsis above is the synopsis that describes the first book in the series – aka, the last 40% of the book. Most of the book is about HOW the baddie became the bad and how Emory ended up in our world with no memory.
It’s also NOT a book about Emory. There are five POV character: Adair, Brokk, Memphis, Emory, and Nyk. Not that Nyk does anything other than narrate one chapter, but that’s a minor thing in the grand scale of it. Emory has less than 20% share of the narration, not coming in to speak until the 50% mark. Instead, Adair, Brokk and Memphis share the bulk of the narration (maybe 80%), telling us about Emory, the supposed main character.
What does this mean for the book? Well it means that it doesn’t feel like it has a clear direction as the focus of the first half is very very different to the focus of the second. The first is trying to set up the world, without a goal for the characters to be working towards. Instead they just brood then react.
I could not follow the world building. The book tries to explain all these tensions between the Isles and the main kingdom, and that the government is different, but I didn’t have a clue what was going on. For some reason these two places were meant to be allied, but then suddenly weren’t – but then the new king wanted a new alliance? The king of the main country was not really a king but a headmaster but then decided to be a king again? And, all of this was supposed to be triggering a rebellion from certain other characters that then triggered the baddie becoming bad?
Yes – it is that confusing. Unfortunately, this is the basis for the bulk of the book, as it is setting up the conflict of the second half. As I couldn’t follow it, I had no hope of understanding any motives or any of the “gasp, he’s now in rebellion”, let alone working out what was happening to make the big bad the big bad. That was just… brooding then stumble across ancient magic and then heavens know what. He was the big bad running after then and somehow one of them discovers magic and send Emory to our world while the other wipes her memories? Possibly by accident? This is also when her POV comes in.
This all leads to middle point where the book transitions from what was originally the prequel to what was originally the first book in the series. With a LOT of time jumps. First a week, then six years ahead, then six years back, two months ahead, before finally going six years ahead. It was very hard to follow and work out what the time was, where we were (as this pings between our world and theirs).
The second half feels like it should have a more obvious goal, but it lacks any development – and it feels like the author’s decided she doesn’t need to bother exploring any character development or desires because the first half exists (which doesn’t actually help make sense of actions). Things just happen, without digging into Emory’s wants. As she’s supposed to be the central character here, the lack of desire or goal from her makes the book feel aimless.
There are many “twists” and “reveals” in this book, but none of them are set up at all. They all fall under deus ex machina moments, or reveals for “tension/shock value sake”. Not one of them feels earnt, but rather adds to the confusion. There’s nothing in advance to suggest it’s coming, nothing to ground it into the world. Instead, it’s all new magic powers! new reveal about your lineage! new prophecy we’ve never heard of before! It feels like very weak story telling – trying to conceal the lack of clarity under shock value.
At the same time that the plot is a confusing mess, the characters are just as messy. I’ve talked about Emory’s lack of drive above, but the boys are just as unclear. The big bad becomes the big bad because…? He has dangerous magic and people fear him for it, so he fell into a magic goo swamp when trying to find out secrets? The other two are vying for Emory’s heart initially and also feel like outsiders, and that means they take steps to do… things which don’t make sense?
I had no idea what anyone’s relationships were supposed to be as there were mixed messages, then the relationships were ignored, then picked back up again. And as most of the actions were supposed to be leading from these relationships, it meant the choices were baffling.
The world is also very confusing. It doesn’t feel consistent. There are weird creatures in the wood and a baddie in… some lair, and yet they have electric lights because magic. They have kings and pirates, and also schools that kings can just abandon their kingdoms to run. There’s little I could see in the setting to work out what the world was like.
Well, this is a VERY long review, and very ranty, but I have so many feelings about this book. I have been sent the second one for the blog tour, and I think I need to read it to work out what I can post for the tour. (This review has been posted after the tour, to avoid bad publicity during the tour).
Read my reviews of other books by Mallory McCartney:
Black Dawn (this series):
- QUEEN TO ASHES (#2)