Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Book Review: Darkhaven by A.F.E Smith

Read: November 8-10 Verdict: 4 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

Ayla lives in a world where the leaders of her land can transform into terrifying but beautiful beasts. Ayla also happens to be the ruler's daughter and is his only living child capable of changing which means her father has taking the right to be heir of Ayla's brother, and given it to Ayla...and she really doesn't want it. After arguing with her father, Ayla is locked up and then the night she escapes, her father is brutally murdered. On the run, and wrongly suspected of murder, Ayla needs all the help she can get, even if it's with the man who killed her mother.

This was one of those kind of books that after one chapter, I knew I was going to be completely enthralled. I mean, a world where one of the main characters can transform into a golden horse with a spiral horse and wings made of flame...awesome! I found the world and city the story was set in pretty interesting, and the way the city was laid out reminded me a little bit of Trudi Canavan's The Black Magician trilogy. I enjoyed pretty much all the POVs, with a particular favourite being Tom Caraway's and Ayla. Myrren and Serenna grew a little bit too soppy at points but they weren't too bad. There was enough action and mystery to keep me going, and I did jump around a few times to finally settle on who I believed was the mysterious Changer.

The book lost a star for me for how quickly some things seemed to wrap up. For all of the book, Ayla had been resenting Tom and he had purely helped her because of his loyalty to her family and his remorse over her mother. While the reader was told that Ayla had once fancied Tom, there no real sense of any flickers of attraction there until the very end where Ayla is rather blunt about the whole thing and Tom just goes along with it (even though there was pretty much nothing about how he felt about Ayla in that way in the rest of the story). I just would have liked this relationship to have built up more in terms of attraction and 'moments', like Serenna and Myrren's.  I also felt this book was often a victim of the readers being told something, rather than shown. Travers repeatedly called Myrren weak and afraid, the same with Ayla talking about Tom's hangdog expression. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of this in the character's actions. I also would have liked more Changing in general but for reasons, Ayla trying to stay hidden, I understand why she couldn't.

This was a great fantasy debut, and I can only hope there is more to come!

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