Moth and Spark – Anne Leonard

16239655e-ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for fair review

Summary:

Prince Corin has been chosen to free the dragons from their bondage to the Empire, but dragons aren’t big on directions. They have given him some of their power, but none of their knowledge. No one, not the dragons nor their riders, is even sure what keeps the dragons in the Empire’s control.

Tam, sensible daughter of a well-respected doctor, had no idea before she arrived in the capital that she is a Seer, gifted with visions. When the two run into each other (quite literally) in the library, sparks fly and Corin impulsively asks Tam to dinner. But it’s not all happily ever after. Never mind that the prince isn’t allowed to marry a commoner: war is coming to Caithen.

Torn between Corin’s quest to free the dragons and his duty to his country, the lovers must both figure out how to master their powers in order to save Caithen. With a little help from a village of secret wizards and a rogue dragonrider, they just might pull it off.

Review:

The prologue of this book has the dragons charging the Prince with freeing them. So between this summary and that prologue, you’d reasonably expect that dragons would have a place of prominence in this book, like they do in say, Naomi Novak’s Temeraire series. If that is what is looking for (I was) you might be disappointed. For all the interesting moments with dragons, the dragons themselves are truly secondary characters, and I don’t think it unfair to say that less than a third of the novel actually contains them. Instead, we get a pretty standard fantasy tale of a small kingdom threatened by war. The dragons play a part in how Caithen came to be in this position and in the battle between them, but this is ultimately the story of Corin and Tam.

Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time knows that world building is very important to me, so much so that even an uninspired plot can be greatly elevated if great care was taken in crafting the character’s surroundings. Sadly, I cannot make such claims here. This is very much your basic Western European inspired Kingdom, to the point where the author only changed the name of the regions where the wine is from. It is so literally ripped off that there are straight on references to both Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty- Leonard did absolutely nothing to try and make them her own. It’s unforgivably lazy. There are some interesting bits to the dragon’s backstory, but it’s nothing out of the norm and not quite enough to make up for the lack of interesting worldbuilding elsewhere.

Without an interesting world, the next best bet are interesting characters. Things are kind of shaky here too. Corin is your Good Prince, who is noble and wants to do right by his family, by Tam, by the dragons and by his people. Aside from seeing a tad naive in places (it’s murder to kill the attacker that he disarmed after the attacker tried to kill him!) he’s mostly inoffensive and safe. He has a few moments of rage, and while they almost feel out of place, at least he feels the most human here. My bigger problem is with Tam. On the one hand, she is the slightly more interesting of the two characters. On the other hand she is (and I hate having to say this) a Mary Sue. She’s so beautiful that it was love at first sight for Corin and all of the highest nobles at Court asked to dance with her at a ball despite having no clue who she was. She’s way more educated than most nobles, despite being the daughter of a commoner. She has impeccable manners that no commoner really has reason to develop. When she speaks impertinently to both nobles and even Corin before they got together, no one is mad, they find it charming and refreshing. She’s uncommonly cool and collected – when fleeing Caithen she tries to go back for her sister-in-law and is told that the King sent men and there is nothing else to be done. She accepts this without fight and moves on. She has practically no moments of weakness, and her power to See is what ultimately drives the end game. The King and the Queen have zero objects to their son dating (and marrying!) her. Heck, she’s even a virgin and resists the temptation of the Prince’s bed for several occasions until it seems assured that he both loves her and will be discreet. She is simply too good, too perfect. The book ultimately becomes her tale, for better or for worse.

The writing here is okay, if a bit too reliant on telling, over showing. It’s mostly unremarkable, like the rest of the book really.

This book was a bit of a slog for me. The premise was intriguing enough to make me keep pushing to finish, but it simply didn’t live up to the excitement that the summary promised. The good guys were too bland and too good (especially Tam) to get emotionally invested in and a dearth of dragons was just that added bit of disappointment. Die hard fans of traditional fantasy unable to find anything else to read might like it, but it’s hard to really recommend to anyone else.

Verdict: Skip it

Available: February 20th

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