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I usually try to post my weekly book review on Wednesdays or Thursdays, but since this book is coming out this Wednesday, I wanted to post the review first.
I was very excited to write this review, as it is officially my FIRST Advanced Reader Copy (ARC)!! Ahh, so much fun! I’ll be honest, I enjoyed getting to read this book early, but I don’t know how often I’ll foray into the world of ARC’s. There are so many already published books out there that I want to read. However, when I was recently introduced to NetGalley, this book really caught my eye.
Mae never asked to be craft-born. She never wanted that burden.
The realm needs magic again, and the King of Aegunlund has been waiting for the first craft-born girl to marry his son, Prince Casimir.
In Mae’s town of Halts-Walden, the ambitious miller claims his daughter Ellen is craft-born. Mae knows this is a load of hogwash, but she’s glad Ellen will have the unfortunate pleasure of becoming queen instead of her. All she has to do is sit back and wait until Casimir and Ellen are married, then she will finally be free of the threat of her fate. But on that day an event so shocking and terrible occurs that Mae finds herself entering the neighboring cursed forest on a quest she never thought she’d have to follow.
Join Mae as she rides her white stag through the Waerg Woods with a pampered prince at her heels. She’s out for revenge and nothing, no one, will get in her way.
Dalton doesn’t fool around starting her story. There’s very little descriptive background in the beginning before suddenly you’re whirling into a thickening plot. Then, just as you’re getting excited, frantically turning page after page… it gets stagnant. Sure, they’re traveling through the dark, mysterious, dangerous Waerg Woods, and you’re not sure what’s going to happen to them next. But the character relationship is very cliche. The we-don’t-like-each-other, he-likes-this-other-girl-so-I-can’t-possibly-like-him, okay-I-like-him-but-he-likes-her-not-me, etc. etc. story line has been done so many times. I began wishing Dalton had chosen a different approach for the main characters’ relationship.
Then you meet the Ibenas, and you’re now excitedly flipping through the pages again. You get pulled into the roller-coaster of Mae’s emotions, despite the cliche-ness of it all. I legitimately could not stop reading this book once I got to this point. Any chance I had to pull it up on my phone, I was doing it. I even half-considered skipping the run and yoga class I had on schedule that night. For like a second or two.
Suddenly there was a plot twist I hadn’t been expecting. I look to see that I am 90% of the way through the book, and I inwardly groan. This can’t be good.
To say I was happy with the way the book ended would be a lie. Books that just END like that drive me crazy. At least, unless I’ve already got the sequel in my hands. Which I don’t, because this first book hasn’t even been published yet. Alas, I just checked out her website for the book, and it looks like Red Palace will be coming out this summer. YES!! It’ll definitely be on my TBR list!
I did have one major issue with the book. I felt like Dalton was trying to make a few political statements, but she never hashed out those parts of the book enough to actually make the statement. For example, she seemed to want to make a distinction between the female lead, Mae, being black and poor, and the male lead, Casimir, being white and a prince. But it doesn’t really go anywhere and feels unnecessary to the story she’s trying to tell. And then there’s the coal-burning palace. Look, I’m an environmental scientist, and I am all for ecological awareness. But beyond the statement that the “fumes” (smog) have killed the crops and are making people sick, it doesn’t go any further. Perhaps she’ll expand upon this more in her second book, but I feel like if you are trying to take an environmental stance, you have to dig deeper into it than she has.
I really liked this book. There was a moment where things were turning into a typical, expected and unexciting plot, and my initial enjoyment began to waver, but then the action really picked back up the rest of the way to the end. As I said, I’m already excited for the sequel to come out, so I can find out WHAT HAPPENED. Gah, what a cliffhanger! Overall, I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars.
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