Published by Bella Books on January 18th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Historical
Margerit Sovitre did not expect to inherit Baron Saveze's fortunes—even less his bodyguard, a ruthlessly efficient swordswoman known only as Barbara. Wealth suddenly makes Margerit a highly eligible heiress and buys her the enmity of the new Baron. He had expected to inherit all, and now eyes her fortune with open envy.
Barbara proudly served as the old Baron's duelist but she had expected his death to make her a free woman. Bitterness turns to determination when she finds herself the only force that stands between Margerit and the new Baron's greed.
At first Margerit protests the need for Barbara's services, but soon she cannot imagine sending Barbara away. And Barbara's duty has become something far more hazardous to her heart than the point of a sword. But greater dangers loom than one man's hatred—the Prince of Alpennia is ill. Deadly intrigue surrounds the succession and the rituals of divine power known as The Mysteries of the Saints.
A fantasy Napoleonic-war-AU!
The book promised me all these things which got me very excited. In the end, I was very disappointed. The story idea has potential. It puts an interesting spin on how magic works and unlike many fantasy novels, it doesn’t focus on big battles but on the court and the court intrigue. That could have made for a great fantasy story that’s different from all those about yet another bloody battle to save the world. It just made for a boring story with a boring romance and worldbuilding that made my head hurt.
The chemistry between Margerit and Barbara is severely lacking. (As the saying goes ‘If they have to kiss for you to realize they’re in love something is wrong’). The conflicts that get in their way are ridiculous most of the time. The soap-opera ‘if you just talked to each other all this could be avoided’ type. And as soon as the plot requires it they get resolved in a paragraph (also the one thing that I considered a good reason for a conflict; a money-based argument between the two).
Additionally, Margerit suffers from a bad case of ‘not like the other girls’-syndrome. Those girls care about stupid things like clothes, fancy balls and making a good impression in society. Margerit is better than those girls because she likes books and learning! And even though people keep pointing out to her that she at least needs to make a basic effort if she doesn’t want to end up as an outcast she keeps complaining how horrible it is to have to go to the opera if all she wants to do is learn. Pity that poor rich heiress. Pity her.
Apart from that, the quick resolutions don’t just happen in the romantic conflicts. Most of the trouble they run into is resolved in a couple of pages. And even if it takes a bit longer nobody seems worried. Towards the end, one of the character’s life is in danger but everybody is really nonchalant about it. That doesn’t exactly make me as a reader worried. And while I think that intrigue and conspiracies can make for an exciting read this book doesn’t do it right. A lot of it happens off-screen and we only learn about it afterwards. And the big climax? Essentially a courtroom scene solved through creative use of the law and the magic of plot convenience.
I’m just not into legal drama that much. Or not at all. With one exception:
No, I watch SVU for the plot. Really. And yes that aside was very important for this review. At least I needed it after this book.
Then there’s the world-building in general. The book is set shortly after the Napoleonic wars (but with all the influence that fact has on the plot it could just as easily be 200 years earlier or 50 later) but in an alternate reality. In that reality, a state called Alpennia exists. That state is certainly not in the Alps because not a single mountain is mentioned throughout the book (and flooding is more of an issue than any mountain-based natural disasters). Still, France exists as well and so does Austria – but with different rulers. The people in Alpennia have names that range from typical (mostly) Western-European ones to the ever popular ‘let’s slightly misspell a normal name’ and the even more popular ‘I just smash the keyboard and see what happens’. For somebody like me who finds remembering names in general hard this did not help. Perhaps the book would have been more interesting if I could have remembered if Cherend or Marziel have already appeared and did something relevant or if we’re meeting them for the first time. But I rarely could so I was just confused most of the time.
The book did have potential but fails to realize it.