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Author: A. J. Bell
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Adventure
Book Rating: 8.3
Personal Rating: 7.5
This book is brilliant. Right from the very first pages you’re sucked into the world and brought into the precarious situation of the main character. Even without actually knowing just what it is. A sense of mystery and intrigue are laid out rather well. I did enjoy reading this book, but on the other hand I didn’t. It was a masterful work of fiction but it had some flaws nothing worthy of diminishing its awesomeness. And speaking of awesomeness lets get into the good stuff.
The main character Elle, is handled well. Depth, confusion decisions, love fiveangle, there’s enough of that emotional rollercoaster romance stuff here to keep any romance fan happy. On the other side she’s also very head strong, and usually right, and should’ve kicked a lot more ass but unfortunately people kept getting in the way when she was on the verge of pummeling someone. Richard, was a very well crafted character as well. You knew who he was, he actually stuck true to himself through the entire book, in fact out of all the man I the book, even though in theory he was the biggest womanizer of them all, he also equally turned out to be the most ‘man’ of them all.
Dorian, I kind of had high hopes for. His character was brilliant. He was the responsible man out of the bunch. The character who seems most likely to come out on top. He was introduced late but was crafted well enough to leave a big impact. Then there was the prince. Also very well crafted but was a little flip floppy and apologized way too much for my liking. Kind of a really macho sap. Then there was the gypsy Vince who didn’t get nearly enough page time. I was really looking forward to more of him. But he made me smile and that was more than enough. And thus rounding out our foursome of men all vying for the beautiful Elle.
For the most part the plot moved at a rather steady pace, things came when should come. The mystery of John and Elle, the brother and sister in the book, held up very well in most places. And it was believable. You believed that the situations that happened would happen. The descriptions were well enough for you to feel transported into the world. And the pain of war was adequately described. War hurts. Injuries happen. People die. It’s nice to read a book that doesn’t shy away from the realties of life. Still, through all the good writing, excellent set ups, and I still felt a little bogged down sometimes
The further I got in the slower the book seemed to go. It was the complete opposite of the race to the finish. In most cases great, but this seemed like a little bit too much of taking the time to tell the story. Once the love fiveangle was in place it seemed like the book was battling between that being the plot, and the supposed ‘gypsy” take over, coupled with the peace treaty between two realms. Both were very well written but seemed a little bit too stretched out. And some of the problems that were placed on Elle in the third act seemed just there to cause her irritance rather than actually being necessary.
And the other problem that I had is that she seemed to forfeit the information she actually needed to sort out her love fiveangle. She was surrounded by people who knew who she was. Not only that but one of them had a picture drawn of her during the time she has no memory of. And she’s staying in this mans house at one point, in his room, with the father home, who also knows who she is. This man happens to be the brotherinlaw of the king who, as I remember, also knows who she is. So, when you hop on a horse, travel to meet this man, Dorian, who knows exactly who you were before you have no memory. Because he’s, betrothed to someone else now and you cant have him, magically the fact that he holds the key to all your memories just goes up in smoke. It just didn’t click. It felt like withholding just to keep the plot going. If she demanded answers but didn’t get them. Or got interrupted during the process and only got pieces. That I could deal with. But she seemed to, even with her parents who knew, just always accepted the not knowing too easy.
The other part, and I’m sorry but this is a plot spoiler sort of, is that she speaks gypsy. There is no way under the heavens she could be stupid enough to speak a language her parents can not, know songs, that they did not teach her, and remember a story that her own mother flat out tells her she did not tell Elle, there's no way she could know all of this and not question who she is. There is so much gypsy about Elle even a blind person could see it. She’s spent so many years among english speaking people and never once heard the utterance of gypsum words, how then could she hear them for the first time in gypsy camp and nothing clicks when she understands them. And I’m not talking memory, but just the knowing in “I understand what they are saying’ kind of click. She even knows a gypsy song that is about a gypsy that’s still alive, that again her mother didn’t teach her. Elle is smart, courageous, and strong willed, there just is no way she couldn’t even on a base level realise that she wasn’t who she was told she was.
That brings me to my next unfortunate issue. I absolutely knew by the time the beginning chase with the gypsies had happened who she really was. And quite literally read the entire book to find out at the end. The biggest secret, as explained above, was just obvious. And that was long before anything in the above paragraph was introduced. And it was the fault of the gypsy’s saying they followed her because she was singing an old gypsy tune and they wondered where she had learned it. I always knew, which was part of why as the love fiveangle advanced I couldn’t help but wonder how, when she even admitted there were clues to her past, that that was not the road she decided to take. Demand to be told. What’s the point of being in love if you don’t even know who you are?
And there were too many conversations about how to treat women, and what it is to be in love, and so on and so forth. It was just a little bit too preachy about it at some points. I was thinking lets just focus on the romance and enough with what it means to be in a romance. Because this, was to me, a hindrance in finding out if Elle was indeed a gypsy princess. All the other secrets well, I dunno. I guess I’m a character person. And since the characters were so well written and all of them were sure of who they were if not what they wanted, Elle as the only one who had no idea who she was, should’ve been more concerned with finding that out. In fact if she pursued that through the whole book and I got to the end and didn’t find out, I probably wouldn’t have cared. Because at least she would’ve actively sought to figure out her past. She was entirely too interested in the love stuff for my liking.
Now the romance. Was great. Between Elle and Richard. Excellent. In fact, their romance was the only one worth routing for because of its complexity and depth. It, in my opinion, should work out even though the better choice would be for her to wed a gypsy. Which brings me to the gypsies. I always knew they weren’t bad guys. They never are. They of course get blamed for everything, but I’m more than certain nothing is their fault, the king and the realm are wrong, and that something else is going on. But as this is the first book their problems can’t be solved too quickly so that secret of who is really behind the destruction of one of the cities will have to wait. Which is fine. But the cliché of the normal people against the thieving gypsies especially to the loathing extents of this novel did garner an eye roll out of me.
So unfortunately once I got into the third act I started reading super fast, because where I felt the pacing in the first two thirds was brilliant, the last part seemed to just be crawling to the finish line. Too many things that seemed to happen that lasted just a teeny bit too long each time. Yet I finished this book in about seven hours. That’s a good sign.
Though it had some down points, this book made me smile, laugh. Roll my eyes, shake my head and ultimately decide I had to finish it. I did enjoy reading it. And it’s just so descriptively fun. And I’m a sucker for good wording and this book is chockfull of beautifully crafted sentences. Not to mention I also like female leads who can hold their own, and Elle, well I’m not trying to sword fight her anytime soon. And it was a good journey. Regardless of some things, each character did grow a bit, learn something about themselves, and the author does a more than excellent job of seamlessly taking you on that journey so you come out fulfilled that you read something good. Good enough to be waiting patiently for the next installment.
Did I thoroughly enjoy the book—enough to want to keep with the series if not enough to scream this is awesome. But that has nothing to do with the actual craftsmanship of this book. It is excellent, the writing is good, the plot is also good, and, even though some bits rushed, the ending was satisfying. In fact more than satisfying because it almost looked like it was going to be happy and sad, but did a 360 on the last page and turned out all good, which is always fun. Both endings would’ve been ideal in my eyes though.
I would recommend this book purely on the fact that it crosses every line that a good fantasy romance adventure novel should. Throw in a slice of action and you have a book that would make any good author shake a bit at its power. Okay that’s a bit glowing but its true. This book made me think the makings of something great is in this series and I want to see where it will go. In fact if it gets made into a movie, I’m free to offer up my services to be the prince of the gypsies. Mostly cause the gypsies are always the cool ones. And in my fantasy world I’m a lot more cooler than the nerdy reviewer I really am. I would want to live in these pages, and that’s more than can be expected from a good book.