The realm needs magic again, and the 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 neighbouring 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.
This is one of those books I wanted to like. In theory, it has a bunch of great parts that should have come into a great whole. In execution however….eh. I hate doing laundry lists, but in this case, it seems appropriate, so here we go:
- Magic woods are awesome conceit except for the fact that many of the challenges they face seem like they’d be more fitting to one of the Arenas from the Hunger Games. Things like birds that cause showers of acid or fog that literally freezes people to death in seconds but only exists in small self-contained portions of the forest? I doubt that that was the author’s intention, but it is how it was perceived, and ultimately my perception does mean more than the reader’s intention because it does impact how I view a book.
- Prince Casimir is a useless tool. Yes, he does do some questionably stupid things to help save Mae, but he literally spends the majority of the story more or less dreaming about marrying a gal he met in a village for maybe an hour or two before the quest got going. I honestly do not get why Mae knocked herself out falling for this guy or telling him that he was a great guy. He fell in lust with Ellen and spends more or less the rest of the books generally being oblivious to everything going on around him. He doesn’t necessarily trigger rage like say, Dante of The Collector did, but Prince or not, he isn’t worth Mae’s time either.
- And as for Mae, she is very (to use the book’s own words) surly throughout a large chunk of the text. I get it. She’s grieving, her attitude is her shield, but it also means that for a large part of the book she’s unlikable. Combine an unlikable MC with an unlikable would-be partner and it’s hard to care about the pair. She did become more sympathetic as her walls came down as the book came along towards the end. Probably was, my sympathy was tinged with pity because of how she was falling for Casimir. And hell, even one of the side-characters seemed unimpressed with her mooning too.
- Natives covered in mud who first worship Mae, than want to sacrifice her.
- Prince’s brother is considered a “heathen” because he got over-eager in a fight. Kingdom is going to be better off with Casimir in charge…because he moons after Ellen? I don’t know. He doesn’t get enough development to justify him as “the good brother” but that’s what the book has proclaimed him, so we we have to run with it, I guess.
- While the main plot of the book did technically wrap up, the book literally ends on a fade to black cliffhanger. You practically can hear the dramatic music as you read it.
As I wrote this list, I find myself sitting here trying to think of reasons I should recommend this book. And frustratingly, I’m sitting here coming up blank. Wait. I take that back. I love the idea of the Craft-born. Too bad its sole purpose seemed to be to help the plot along at convenient paths. There is so much that could have been done with this, but as it stand we got so little in the way of mythology or how it works that it just feels underdeveloped. Anta too, is pretty great. I don’t know how she afforded the multiple saddles he probably needed, but still. Awesome.
Like I said at the top, I wanted to like this book. But at the end of the day…I just can’t. And that saddens me.
Verdict: Skip It.