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Embers In Wait #1

But For The Mountains

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Arden Thatcher wasn’t meant to be chosen.

But when her name is announced, she’s presented with something she never thought she’d have: a future away from her abuser. Shuttled off to attend the prestigious National Women’s Institute, Arden will receive Nordania’s highest honor, studying with other elite candidates to become leaders, diplomats, and ambassadors on the world stage.

Only, the institute’s not quite what she expected. Paraded around in gown after gown, the tests seem less about educating and more about a different competition, with a very specific prize at stake—the Nordanian Prime Minister’s son. Despite the dean’s protestations that angling for an engagement leads to expulsion, Arden sees the truth. There’s a secret bubbling beneath the institute’s refined surface, and those who refuse to play along may well wind up dead.

With the danger escalating, and the return of her abuser on the horizon, Arden’s shiny future becomes a gilded cage. And this time, she’s going to need powerful allies to escape.

Political intrigue, swoon-worthy romance, and a dash of dystopian flare, But for the Mountains begs the question, how do you change the world when you’re not allowed to try?

407 pages, ebook

First published June 2, 2020

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Erin Riha

3 books25 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 64 reviews
Profile Image for Era ➴.
215 reviews523 followers
March 25, 2022
Trigger Warnings: rape and sexual assault/abuse, violence (relatively explicit), physical abuse, mentions of suicide and depression/self-harm, PTSD/panic attacks, alcoholism.

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me an ARC!

I know. Everyone keeps comparing this book to The Selection. And I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to do it too.

However, this book is much better.

The premise of this book definitely screamed “The Selection, but make it edgy”. Twenty-six girls chosen to attend an elite, competitive institute and compete for the hand of the prime minister’s eldest son? Hm, I wonder where that idea came from.

But. The delivery of this book was so much better. When I first started reading it, my thoughts were “so it’s a darker version of The Selection” - and for about 40 percent of the book that’s where I thought it was headed. It definitely had a few strong differences, but even the plot seemed like it was following the same pattern.

“But For The Mountains” turned into its own storyline with its own development, and let me just say it was much better than the whitewashed Bachelor. For one thing, there was real diversity.

“A chill runs down my spine as I think of each girl here. Flesh and blood, yet we all belong to someone in some way.”

The characters all had such unique personalities. I can’t say I was attached to any of them, but I had very strong opinions about them, which means that they were good enough.

“I am not who he wants me to be. I am me, and he cannot have me.”

Arden (which is a name I adore, by the way) is our main character and she’s not a special snowflake, which is a trope I adore. We’re going pretty strong here. She’s been abused for basically her whole life, having been raised by her “benefactor”.

Her benefactor’s son had also been r@ping her since she was thirteen. To no consequences whatsoever. Of course, no one knows about this. So when Arden is chosen for the Institute instead of the girl who had been nominated, Arden is not only severely traumatized but she hasn’t been given any of the education required.

Arden wasn’t a very relatable character, but I admired her determination and I could understand her motives. She was strong and had great development - her representation of trauma and abuse really stood out to me.

“The close, hot air in the room stifles, and for a moment, it’s as if I can’t trust my own mind—as if a handful of careless words could make me doubt what actually happened when I struggled to breathe against that workbench, to forget the pain and humiliation of less than an hour ago.”

Zerah was a tough, fiery girl and I loved how she was so quietly bitter. Her backstory and her personality had me shook and she was probably my favorite character in the book, even though she wasn’t that much in the foreground.

“Sleep well?” I ask as I approach, and she [Zerah] starts.
“Yeah, sure . . .” she says, chuckling into her coffee. “You?”
“Like a baby,” I say. She snorts and shakes her head, the loose strands sweeping against her cheeks.
“Babies sleep like crap.”
“I know.”

Declan was the prime minister’s son (AKA the crown prince AKA Maxon frOM The Selection). He frustrated me, but he was definitely the better end of the love triangle in my opinion. He legitimately tried to understand Arden and took the time to realize how privileged and idealistic his world was. Exhibit A:

“Has it ever occurred to you to ask the candidates whether they want their supporters to visit?”
“No. Why should it?”

please let me shove you into a bush. I know you’re trying but also WHY

He was so clueless and frustrating and I honestly wanted to punch him a couple times, but he was actually respectful and tried to empathize with Arden when she opened up to him. He made a lot of mistakes and could definitely be classified as an idiot, but he was kind and actually tried to solve problems hands-on.

“Did you like it?” His question feels heavy, weighted with more than the simplicity of his words.”

Beck was…

*long sigh*

I mean, he didn’t absolutely suck. I just kind of wanted him to die for half the book. I’ve seen reviews and a lot of people love Beck and I’m sorry but also no. Beck is a pirate who literally introduces himself as “a drunken asshole” and for most of the book that’s basically what he is. He drinks only booze, because water is for wusses and girls apparently. He owns a ship (it’s not a boat, it’s a SHIP, and it’s a sexy ship).

He was also very misogynistic at times and I really wished he would shut up. He made so many jokes about how good he was at drinking, teaching, and doing literally anything other than breathing. He made taunts like “you hit like a girl”, and I don’t care that he helped Arden learn to defend herself - Beck met violence with more violence, and that’s not the kind of person that an abuse survivor like Arden should be paired with.

Beck was also downright insensitive half the time. For example, he blamed Arden for panicking when he got too close. I repeat: he blamed Arden, a r@pe survivor who was abused literally every day, for panicking when he got too close. He did not try to understand. He did not try to make sure she was okay. His reaction was, “Did you seriously think I would do that?”

Not to mention that he treated Arden like a child. She might have been abused and traumatized, but after Beck spending so much time trying to convince her to stand up for herself he literally tried to shelter her from everything that moves on the face of the Earth. When he wanted her to run, he decided to “push her buttons” and pretty much sexually threaten her to get her out of the room? She has a brain - she will understand if you just tell her to run.

No thanks, asshole.

“Beck gives a noncommittal grunt. “Secret admirer, then. Probably wasn’t expecting you to clean up quite this good, though. That dress really does make your tits look great.”
“Can we please stop talking about my tits?” I hiss, crossing my arms over my chest. I turn to face the table.
“Fine. Maybe it doesn’t show enough of your ass? That could be why nobody’s calling.”

CJ was the son of Arden’s benefactor, as well has her persistent r@pist and abuser. He was creepy, perverted, and downright disgusting. I hated him with every fiber of my being. I know I always look for developed, strong characters but I was personally glad that CJ got no justification or good traits, because I do not want to sympathize with a piece of trash like that.

“You’re hurting me,” I say quietly, breathing through the pain to keep from drawing attention.
“We both know you like that,” he says with his same, megawatt smile.”

CJ was just a whole compilation of everything wrong with the world. I might have disliked Beck, but compared to CJ he was a whole-ass god of the heavens.

“Remember, Arden—win. You can’t imagine how difficult I can make things if you fail.” He lets go, and his eyes dance down my body in a slow, slithering slide. “And before you let anyone see you, change into something that shows off your tits.”

The misogyny in this book was portrayed so well that I wished it wasn’t. Which is pretty much perfect, I guess. I genuinely hated how women were portrayed as property and how men dominated the system. But it was also extremely relatable, which...sucks.

“I stare at my reflection a moment longer, and decide that Neve isn’t quite right—it’s not about whether or not I’m pretty. It’s that nobody cares enough to decide whether or not I am.”

Unfortunately, there were two tropes that I hated: girl-on-girl hate and a love triangle. Again, since the basic concept (I repeat: basic concept) was similar to The Selection, there was a lot of girl-on-girl hate, because of course the rich privileged girls were also catty bitches.

It’s not like a rich girl could also be...nice. Imagine the scandal.

“I want to roll my eyes. You wanna be my enemy? Fantastic. Get in line.”

And then of course the love triangle.


Personally I feel like Arden shouldn’t have even had a love interest if it was literally the week after she’d left her r@pist/abuser and she literally couldn’t stand to be close to a male person, but...wHaT kInD oF YA bOoK dOeSn’T hAvE a LoVe TrIaNgLe?

Easy solution: Arden stays single. There. Solved. She can heal from her trauma on her own and doesn’t have to choose between two idiots.

“I stay where I am, pressed against the tree, and swallow around the sudden thickness in my throat, wondering if I’ll ever be normal—if I’ll always be broken.”

Arden’s trauma representation was amazing, and I loved her development into someone who genuinely wanted to and could make a change. She had her ups and downs, and I think the way her abuse was handled in this book was great.

“I just want to fix my hand, to focus my attention on something so little, so precise—something I can fix.”

Lastly, the world-building. It wasn't incredible or complex, but it didn't suck. The map was original and didn't look like it was based off anywhere, and the cultures and customs were vague but not nonexistent. I didn't understand the governmental system of Nordania, but I don't understand the governmental system of America either, so...

I feel like some of the countries were supposed to be based off countries that we have, but I couldn't really tell? Nordania was either England or America, Sudersberg sounded like Germany I think, and Swendenland was probably Sweden I guess??? I don't know??? We didn't really see a lot of the geographical stuff, so it didn't matter that much.

Overall, this ARC was definitely better than I had been expecting. There were a few grammar errors and stuff, but it didn’t actually affect my reading the way it did with my first ARC. The story developed into its own plot, the characters were actually pretty good, and the themes of it were strong. I can’t get it out of my head that this book was similar to The Selection at first, but once I got past that and started going along with it, it really became its own book. And I enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Darcey.
928 reviews201 followers
October 21, 2020
ARC provided by author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. this in no way affects my rating/review.

Trigger Warnings: MAJOR RAPE TRIGGERS. DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU. Also triggers for physical abuse, profanity and bullying.

3 irritated stars.

Hmph. This was….. pretty much a darker version of The Selection, and I didn’t really love it. Maybe it’s because I’m kind of tired of love triangles? Maybe it’s because I feel an urge to cry every time I read about an MC who’s so incredibly special that somehow every guy within a 5 mile radius is attracted to her? Or maybe it’s just because the one and only thing keeping me going as I read this was Beck (my angel and the love of my life – the sole reason this book isn’t 2 stars).

But for the Mountains has an amazing synopsis and cover, I’ll admit that. It was these things that drew me in, but the actual book had me a little disappointed. Firstly, this book began with a rape scene which was TOTALLY unexpected, but that wasn’t the problem. My problem was how dumb and naive the other women in our MC’s household were! I mean, this dude “dotes” on Arden and somehow she always ends up with torn dresses but no one suspects anything? And she literally picks splinters out of her palm IN FRONT OF SOMEONE ELSE and they don’t notice? You can’t tell me that EVERYONE in the household is this damn stupid. That was the first thing that irritated me.

The second thing I found annoying was the prince. Literally just the prince, period. His personality was irritating, the way he spoke to Arden was cringeworthy and he was so bad at dealing with issues! However, I get the feeling that he’s supposed to be like this, as it makes the other love interest – Beck *angels sing* – seem so much better (which he is hehe).

“‘Aw man, don’t tell me Prince Bilgehurler the Wonder-Dilp finally got to you.'”

Yeah, that was basically what I wanted to yell at Arden the entire book. Get your crap together, babe! Another thing I hated – probably the thing I hated most – was the girl hate. I thought authors were moving on from the trope where a bunch of girls pitted together – usually in a competition to get the guy – become enemies, and inevitably there are the bitches and the MC is just a sweet little nobody at the bottom of the heirarchy. God, haven’t we reached the stage where women don’t all want to date the guy! Sure, there was one lesbian in here, but she left pretty quickly and then it was just the (naturally smart and gorgeous even though she’s special enough that she doesn’t wear that much makeup) MC and the bitchy rich girls. Why can’t I find a book where the bitchy rich girls are actually, hmm I don’t know, good people who are sweet and are as much victims of this situation as Arden is? Ugh I’m so tired of the bitchy girl stereotype.

“‘I’m not jealous, Molly. I’m worried!”

“Oh yeah, that’s rich. Another girl competing for the same guy who doesn’t have nearly the connection with him that I do, and you’re worried about me? Bullshit.”

“I think you deserve better than that.”

“What, and you don’t?”

AMEN MOLLY. LOVE YOU GIRL, YOU PUT ARDEN IN HER DAMN PLACE FOR BEING SUCH AN EPIC BITCH TO YOU! YOU DO DESERVE BETTER! BETTER FRIENDS! Ugh god, I just wish Arden would shut up and stay away from that good-for-nothing prince!

However, that’s enough book hate here. Time for the good stuff, which leads me to best person of all! As I said before, Beck carried this entire book. He appeared in all his drunk and dirty glory and wormed his sarcastic ass into my heart, and I will never let him go. This dear pirate – sorry, “swift merchant with a sexy boat” – was freaking hilarious and caring and sweet and badass and BRILLIANT and I’m highkey considering reading book #2 just for Beck. I loved everything about Beck, and honestly he deserves better than Arden, but I still ship him and Arden an INSANE amount. I just wish Arden would drop Prince Whats-His-Name like the trash he is! My boy is clearly the superior guy, and it got to the stage of love where I started highlighting literally every sentence that mentioned Beck.

“It smells like him: salt and orange peel and sarcasm.”

Yep, that’s Beck in one sentence. I’m so glad that Arden started going to Beck more often towards the end of the book and started realising how brilliant he is, and I loved that there were just little sentences woven into this story that gave me vibes hinting that Beck is end-game (fingers crossed!).

Anyhow, that’s all for now! This book was pretty much a retelling of The Selection which was disappointing, but Beck almost made up for it. All up, I did enjoy this, I just did lots of yelling out of irritation as well. Not too bad, just not that good either. Thank you to the author and publisher for providing the free copies, and to Favourite Pages Book Club for organising this tour!
Profile Image for Fizah(Books tales by me).
633 reviews53 followers
October 20, 2020
Thank you Favourite Pages Book Club for giving me this opportunity to be the host of this blog tour.

But for the mountains reminded of The Selection series but darker. Every year National Women’s Institute of Nordania selects a few girls so they'll assign to the high positions and help the country. Parents or Benefactors train their girls and nominate them. The girls who are not selected are just unchosen they don't have any future.

Arden was never trained for it, she is just a girl who works in her benefactor home. She is a victim of sexual assault. She is nominated by his benefactor's so she'll fall in the unchosen category and also in his lap.

But National Women’s Institute of Nordania is really what everyone thinks of it?. So much politics and dark secrets are involved in it.

I love the world-building, the pace was perfect. We rarely get to read Standalone nowadays, I was scared how Erin will manage to the windup story in a single book. I am glad she did it perfectly.

I really liked the character of Arden, the way she is handled her past and tackled the situation, It was so easy to relate to her character. She was desperate to be free but not stupid to do anything.

Declan's character was kinda confused which makes sense, he is a perfect example of those handsome prince who is tied with responsibilities and expectations. I told ya this book reminded me of Selection so take the hint.

I don't like pirates generally, Now I realized it is not them, It is ship life, their crews and lifestyle which make it hard for me to like them. I liked Beck when he was on land, he is different and dark and got the swagger which makes him likeable. He is bold and blunt. I wish if we get to know more about him.

I really hate CJ's character but impressed by the way the author wrote him. You can't assume by looking at a person how he /she is. The facade can be deceiving.

The things I didn't like was objectifying women, the way CJ talks about Arden and other girls. I was like can you please just die. The description of dresses and makeover didn't work for me, I couldn't imagine them properly.

My favourite thing about this book is the way Erin highlighted sexual assault, how it changed Arden's life and her emotions. I loved it.
Profile Image for Finitha Jose.
298 reviews46 followers
October 20, 2020
Fans of 'Selection' may find this story somewhat similar, but I can't be the judge of that since I never got to read the series. I might after this, as it looks like I am inclined to like this particular trope. It is not everyday one can find such a strong heroine who fights back even with all the mental and physical abuse she has undergone. Books like these are a necessity.
Arden Thatcher doesn't have much to look forward to in her life. Her hopes of being selected to the Institute have been demolished long back, she has no way of escaping the clutches of her benefactor's son. Then the unthinkable happens opening an escape route to a better future. But is the life at the Institute is all that is promised? Is she just transferring her bronze chains to golden ones?
Well, the story had me hooked from the beginning. Lots of intrigues, mishaps and a love triangle -- quite a page turner from start to finish. Romantic part didn't interest me that much (nothing is confirmed yet, by the way) as Arden is a force to be reckoned with. I don't think she even needs a man. Her resilience and strong will to survive is hardly ordinary. I can't wait to know what new adventures destiny plans for you.
Profile Image for Kathaleen Mallard.
104 reviews65 followers
March 31, 2021
(B-) 83% : The Selection but darker.
ARC provided by author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. this Do NOT affects my rating.

Trigger Warning: Rape, Sexual Abuse, and Physical Abuse

Non-spoiler Section 📕
This book is almost identical to the selection. I liked the selection so I can't say that's it's bad, but I genuinely don't know how they didn't get copyrighted for this book.

This book we follow Arden, who is one of the lucky girls "Selected" (See what I did there) to be apart of the National Women's Institute. Just like the selection they are competing for the Prince. Of Course just like America, Arden, start out by saying she doesn't want him. From there the girls compete in little tasks and test to prove their rank and find who it worthy to marry the prince. All the while this is going on, there is a subplot about Arden's past and some other people that are trying to harm her. Which let me just say, if I changed the name of the main character is basically the plot of the selection.

Me explaining why these two books are the same

However with that all out of the way let me just say, I did enjoy this book. To go more in depth, I basically binge read this book in one day. I love the selection, so finding a new book that was very similar, but also NEW, was obviously something I wanted to read. I do wish that the book strayed more from the Selection. I don't know if that was the authors goal, but it was just so similar I was just kept drawing parallels.

Now let me talk about the thing that I loved most about this book and why I like it better than the first Selection book. I rated the first Selection book a 3.5 Star rating. Know you might be wondering why I gave this one more. That was the way the author handled trauma in this book, it was beautiful and really shined a light on a lot of things that happen in today's society. The way she talked about it was lyrical. The writing style was, in my opinion, lyrically beautiful. She gave the female characters depth and showed that women are more than objects. That we want things and we can be ambitious, but also be pretty. I loved seeing the main character deal with her trauma. I thought that this book gave me insight on to how I can help others as well. That is why I liked to more than the first Selection book. It was more mature and dealt with topic in a sensitive and brilliant way.

Now let's move on to the spoiler section of this review. If you plan on reading this book I wouldn't read any further, unless you are like me and like to have things spoiled.

besides that this book was a really fun read. I wouldn't say it's my favorite book, but I also wouldn't say it's the worst. I did really enjoy reading this book as a guilty pleasure and I recommend that you read it too.
Profile Image for Kristina Aziz.
Author 4 books25 followers
May 9, 2021
DNF at 83%. It was a half decent story. I liked the characterization and the plot up until the point Beck went from mentor/bodyguard to romantic interest. Beck is painted as a grown man and Arden is painted as a child, 16 or 17 years old. Just too icky to continue
Profile Image for Karin Biggs.
Author 2 books50 followers
August 15, 2020
A darker take on the Selection, But for the Mountains touches on the importance of love and friendship on the path to overcoming trauma. Erin Riha delivers a gripping and engaging voice that is sure to resonate with readers.
Profile Image for Karen Barber.
2,534 reviews60 followers
July 4, 2021
The title of this story comes from a story retold late on in the book but which is central to the theme at the heart of this novel...that of survival. But for the Mountains focuses on the story of Arden, a young girl who has endured horrific abuse at the hands of those who should be protecting her, and how she learns to find ways to accept this element of her past and move into a new future.
While the story of survival and the character of Arden herself were engaging, I don't feel this worked as effectively as it might have because of some of the other plot elements.
Our story is set in the fictional world of Nordania. There are many places within the country mentioned, but I never felt I really was given much to picture the world or how it came to be. We are, however, told that each year there is a group of young women who are sent to the National Institute in order to learn how to rise to their potential role within society - and, though this is never explicitly encouraged, the main aim is to secure a potential match for the Prime Minister's son.
As a number of reviewers have commented, the competition between a group of young women to secure the hand in marriage of someone important has been done before. It is very reminiscent of The Selection - even down to the backstabbing and machinations to beat their rivals - but it was only once I got to the end of the book that I started to feel this was merely a device to allow the author to convey her message about the society, what these girls endure and how all who 'look the other way' are complicit in the abuse.
Arden herself is a character I found intriguing. She is broken, but by the end she is fighting and I definitely liked the way she ended the book. Her relationship with Beck was a curious one, and I'm convinced there is more to this man than meets the eye - how else could he get away with so much?
While there are elements of this book I found did not engage me, it certainly showed us a character determined not to give up, someone you want to succeed and a very real suggestion that she might do okay - in spite of the barriers placed in her way.
Profile Image for Marta Cox.
2,569 reviews191 followers
April 21, 2021
Three and a half
Well I needed to think before I reviewed this and if I’m blunt some of it I really liked and huge chunks I absolutely hated. I have seen others compare this to The Selection and as I haven’t read that cannot make a categorical comparison but yes this book does feature a lot of young women angling to marry the Prince. I personally found it much more similar to The Handmaids Tale as the women in this world are subjugated beyond the extreme ! What time period is this ? They have cars and electricity and yet the almost feudal way they live was very confusing.
This book starts with a scene of abuse that admittedly wasn’t overly long but sets the scene for further demeaning acts . Arden is the victim and yet she’s strangely a lot stronger than those around her. Chosen to represent her benefactor ( honestly these people needed locking up ! ) at Court, Arden wants nothing more than to escape and finally make a good life for herself.
Of course there are the prerequisite mean girls who belittle her but Arden just seems to constantly shine so much brighter than anyone else which sadly led to my eyes really wanting to roll ! Declan the apparently gorgeous Prince plays the game flirting with all the girls and yes even turning Ardens head but he’s shallow , blinkered and maybe just naively brain washed ! The high point for this reader is Beck who captains his own ship and is frequently referred to as being a bit of a roguish pirate. He confuses Arden but does try to help her at times and he certainly was a high spot for me.
I won’t rehash everything but will say I’m not sure how Arden will ever escape from this suffocating culture. The end is in many ways a beginning for Arden but with many very unhappy with her actions I do not imagine an easy ride in the next book. Plus there’s a conversation between Beck and Declan that mentions brothers which actually finally started to perhaps explain odd anomalies. If you read my reviews then you know I’m a hopeless romantic so yes I do want happiness for Arden and I think you can probably guess which guy I prefer !
This voluntary take is of a copy I requested from Netgalley and my thoughts and comments are honest and I believe fair
Profile Image for Merrit Townsend (always1morebook) .
445 reviews17 followers
April 3, 2021
I loved this book! I know that reviews don't normally start like this but let me tell you....I LOVED THIS BOOK!

The story follows Arden who is an orphaned girl in a very male dominated society. You either belong to a rich and successful family or are married to a noble. The only other option remain safe is to be helped by a benefactor who takes you in and cares for you. This means that they take responsibility for you to get you ready for a lottery that will get you into the "Institute". If you are accepted, you will be taught proper etiquette in order to make you presentable for marriage.

Arden is accepted into the Institute and the story follows her journey through the 12 week program. There is intrigue, jealousy and romance. I loved Arden. She is a very tough girl who has been through enormous challenges along her very short life. She is tough but also very vulnerable which make you want her to succeed.

The romance in this book takes place at the school/institute between Beck who is a pirate, and declan who is the schools owner's son. It is not the main focus but I did enjoy it. This book does end with questions but it is not a major cliffhanger.

There are some trigger warnings for this book. If you are sensitive to rape or abuse, you might want to skip this one.
Profile Image for Aishah Humaira' (Mermaird ♡).
239 reviews43 followers
May 6, 2021
TW: Rape and sexual assault/abuse, violence, physical abuse, mentions of suicide and self-harm, PTSD/panic attacks

But for the Mountains is a literal nightmare, especially for girls. It was confusing at first, but after realising with a horror, even the first page of this book started with the main character, Arden, being sexually assaulted.

Arden Thatcher grew up being sexually abused by the people that gave her a place to live. When she was given a chance to escape and enroll into the National Women’s Institute, she thought that her life would change. Instead, it was like she broke out from a prison, to yet another prison. The whole institute was simply a ploy for the Prime Minister's son to find a partner—and the rest of the girls will either be returned to their family or benefactor, or sent to a neighbouring country to feed the politicians' desires. Despite Arden's efforts to change the fate of the girls—and her own, changing something that was already ingrained in the society was a lot harder than anyone could ever think about.

This is a story about a survivor, a girl who had to suffer simply because she was born a girl. I love Arden's fierce character and her smart wits; although she was never prepared to be enrolled into the institute by her benefactor, she was clever enough to find matters that can help to her advantage. She was able to climb to the top spot on her own. I also love the no-nonsense side of her. When she realised the actual meaning of the whole institute, she despised the idea and rejected the Prime Minister's son's approach. She was independent, and with the way how she focused only on trying to bend the rules so that girls are allowed better lives, I believe that she had great leadership qualities.

Although I wish the story did not have a lot of focus on the romance, but I still do appreciate both of the male love interests. Declan, son of the Prime Minister, sounded sketchy at first and I had a hard time trusting him; he seemed too good to be true. But then his flaws were revealed, and though he was not a bad guy, his privilege as a Prime Minister's son also meant that he did not know most of the horrific things going on in the society. As for Beck, he might seem gruff and had a lot of hatred against everyone, but he understood Arden easily and did not hesitate to be there for her. Both characters are good male characters with realistic flaws.

The storyline was gripping, and as much as I loved it, I was also appalled by all the horrifying matters that Arden had to suffer. It had a rather open-ending, which I think could mean the author wanted readers to make their own conclusions, or perhaps giving room to a possible sequel. But for the Mountains was not an easy read, but an important one. It highlights the inequality when it comes to the treatment given between men and women, which still happens until this very moment. I hate that certain men still viewed women and girls as sexual objects and nothing more. This is just a proof that this book somehow portrays the bitter truth of this world.

I would love to recommend everyone to read But for the Mountains, especially if you love female characters that tries their best to survive their harsh fate, even if they have to overcome their fears. But please do note about the trigger warnings first.

Many thanks to Netgalley and REUTS Publications for this book in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Hannah Merseal.
30 reviews
April 10, 2021
I received a free ARC of this book in exchange for my review.

I really enjoyed this book! This was like a darker version of The Selection series (but see cw: sexual assault, physical violence). I was pleased with the ending, but a little confused as to the setting (I was picturing some old-timey kingdom, but there was a jazz mention).
Profile Image for Ali Kiki.
127 reviews
June 2, 2020
First, let's take a moment and look at this beautiful cover. I absoutely love it. I think the white, silver, and gold look is stunning. I love how it has that sketch feel to it. Erin Riha, you were blessed with an amazing cover. I guess now we will jump into the thing you came here for. Adren Thatcher was chosen to become part of the prestigious Nation Women's Institute where one trains to become a proper young lady who will make a difference in the world by marrying someone of that is going to be a great leader.

I think the thing I enjoyed most about this book is how Arden was able to work on overcoming her trauma. She had been physically and emotionally abused before coming to the institute. I think her growing and learning to heal was my favorite part of this story. I found that it was a bit hard to buy the "not like other girls" trope in this book. I think Arden is a decent character but I felt it could have had a bit more fleshing out in the narrative. Arden didn't do well with all the dresses and makeup. She was pretty defiant. I still really liked how the trauma aspect of Arden's life was handled.

Don't miss out on But For the Mountains by Erin RIha. Available today.
Profile Image for Ella-Mae Campling.
30 reviews53 followers
July 3, 2021
Honest Review in exchange for an ARC copy of this book thanks to Netgalley! All opinions expressed are solely my own.

Erin Riha is certainly a writer of skill. I enjoyed this book once I was able to throw myself in, I found the opening slightly confusing and too vague to be of interest, but once I pursued, I enjoyed it a lot more. People compare this a lot to The Selection... I have to admit, The Selection is definitely one of my biggest guilty pleasures; as such I know it well enough to easily see the commonalities between the two books (and their eventual series). And I agree. This is very similar in concept, but I knew that going in, what I didn't know is how quickly it would attempt (fairly successfully at points) to turn this into a redemption of self-worth for our MC.

Arden. I love love love that name, and in a way it totally suits her. Arden, to my knowledge, comes from a meaning of "High" and sometimes "High Beauty", or "High Value". Which to me, is a compliment to our MC's virtue. Here we have an MC that is no damn damsel in distress, but a young woman who's had stuff chucked her way since she was a kid, and still stood strong, finding a way through and on, not just collapsing in a heap or onto a mans shoulders as they do for disney. She's not the most relateable MC, but I still enjoyed her as a character immensely. It's a shame side characters like Zerah weren't given more of a relationship with our MC as I would have found that deeply intriguing and interesting for their perspectives to grow. I love that the 'sidekick' or closest to that, was written in a strong woman who has a mask to the world but still has an obvious archilles heel. No more of those powderpuff girls who act like they've never had brains, here we see an array of DIFFERENT women, each with their own personalities. Now, I have to follow that up with the disappointment that for so many of those characters there was a bitter rivalry that felt secondary to the goings on of the book. Mainly because it would have been ever more so interesting for their to be some woman/woman power instead of just more of the misogynistic world we are so familiar with. Though that leads me to the positive point; that this writer addresses the misogyny at multiple times within our MC's narration, and gives Arden the "hell naw" energy we've been missing in the books of authors prior. My biggest disappointment? The Pirate man. He was a freaking asshole, and his crew weren't life changing just different. AND I am so, so so so so done with bloody love triangles. And it felt so over done and over played with the whole "oh it felt different with him" vibes and "oh but i dont know what that means"... just ENOUGH. Please. In regards to the sensitive matters dealt within of rape/assault and violence etc, I think they were covered and dealt with with grace. I find many authors struggle with this sensitive material and make it too fantastical, or horror story like and unrealistic, and I struggle to read the graphic depictions attempted by other writers. Here, it feels realistic and repulsive, and CJ... CJ is the man we all want to punch in the face, and the two personas shown within society are crafted well, cleverly, and believable. Overall, I enjoyed this book and found it an interesting read, but the forced love triangle (with a toxic member, a sensitive wanting to learn member who is basically an aside story, and a member recovering from something as drastic as Arden), lack of interesting connections between characters, and fairly standard and basic world building, leads me to a score of 2.5/5 stars. I'm not sure I'll read the sequel or continuing books unless I find myself bored.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for LilliSt.
158 reviews4 followers
April 3, 2021
I have received a digital copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion. Thank you!

4 stars - a dark but gripping tale of resilience

This is the (hopefully) first part of Arden's story - a girl who is born poor but given by her parents to a "benefactor": a rich man who takes in girls to sponsor and send them as candidates to the so-called "National Women’s Institute" every year. There they are to perfect their education and then to move into prestigious positions where they use their skill and knowledge to represent their country. At least this is the official story. When Arden hears she is one of the few chosen for the school she finally sees a way out of the grip of her benefactor's son CJ who is abusing his power over her in the worst way possible.
But in this school it seems that it is all about catching the prince. Or if not that, then at least another husband in a position of influence. Arden, who is not well prepared to be a candidate is very much an underdog- but anything would be better than to return to her old home, back to her abuser. All she wants is to be free to make her own decisions ...

Now, this was an absolutely gripping story I could barely put down, but it was darker than my usual fare. There is plenty of mention of abuse of different kinds, mostly rape, which is not easy to stomach. The descriptions were not graphic though, we are rather confronted with the aftermath of the emotional and physical scars abuse leaves and that still, it is possible to refuse to be the victim, to fight back - if one gets the means to do so.

Arden is a great heroine in that regard. Despite all that has happened to her she may be damaged but not broken. She does not put up with being treated poorly, she keeps fighting for what feels like it should not even be a privilge - the simple right to free decisions, particularly when it comes to your own body.

The book is at its strongest when it comes to analysing how power and privilege play out. How helpless those without power are to be moved around like pawns in a game of chess and how easy it is to use them for those who wield that power. It is also great in highlighting how blind privilege can make us to understanding the struggles of those who don't have it. The prince, Conrad, represents that perfectly - he is well meaning but in many ways a pampered boy and rather clueless. And in one case one of the girls in the school has to pay for his well-meaning cluelessness. He of course, doesn't.

Speaking of the prince: of course the story has to have some romance. And there's not only the fair prince, there is also his antithesis, a dark, handsome captain of a boat, no a SHIP, who comes from less privilege and who understands much more.
To be honest, I could really have done without the love triangle and the parts where Arden cannot seem to be able to decide who she actually likes. I felt that her behaviour in some of those scenes did not quite mesh with what we know about her, it seemed to just serve the trope. But maybe I'm just biased because I really didn't care for the fair prince whatsoever ...
Actually, I feel like the story would have been stronger without the romance altogether, if it had focussed more on Arden.

But really, that's my only gripe. At least I like one of the guys so I have someone to root for! In any case, I very much hope that the story will continue, it's one worth following.
Profile Image for Anna Joy.
24 reviews1 follower
April 9, 2021
ARC Provided by the Author / Publisher in exchange for an honest review.

For those who watched 'The Bachelor' and thought it was both performative and morally questionable, and for those who read 'The Selection' and thought it lacked the grit required for a dystopian reality, 'But for the Mountains' is the book for you.

Content note: Rape, Sexual Assault, and Physical Violence.
This is, at the heart of it, a story about being a survivor; about going through horrific ordeals, and learning to not only bear them with a smile, but find value in oneself through it. Although there is violence throughout, the themes are handled with tact and grace; the process of healing from abuse is depicted in a realistic and touching way.

Reminiscent of days past, this book shows a reality where women are treated as little more than chattel, and the most valuable thing a woman can do is marry well. 'But for the Mountains' provides commentary on this in a way that is grounded in reality; though Arden is well aware of the problems of her society, she knows that she is not likely able to revolutionise it alone, only impact it. It was incredibly refreshing to read a story where the teenage protagonist did not upheave the society simply through trauma, a love triangle, and sheer determination. That all of these aspects featured, and yet did not result in the traditional outcome, felt incredibly poignant.

This book was well written. The characters had depth and experienced growth - all were well fleshed out. Those simply making the best out of the situation they were in were treated compassionately and with understanding; Arden is not a 'Pick Me' girl; she does not tear down the other women on a personal level simply because they have a desire to conform to what is expected of them, even through her commentary on the flaws in the social norms. That said, those who used the societal structure to their advantage in a way that was morally reprehensible, and those who not only enabled it but failed to stop it, were rightfully treated unsympathetically, and given a simple message: "do better."

Those who are touting this to be a 'Selection" rip off did not read this deeply enough. The two simply do not compare. The messages throughout are profound, and the open ending hammered home the point that the most important thing is, in the end, about taking back the power to choose where you can.
This book has the potential to be part of a series, but the resolution felt complete enough to be a fulfilling stand alone novel - frankly, Arden deserves both break and a hug after this.

Featuring an incredible cast of: one girl who deserves to heal, a single decent man (pirate), a himbo who is still learning but doing his best, an anxious gay with her head screwed on right, the patriarchy™, a terrible man who deserves to die, a man who is complicit to the terrible man and probably deserves to die too, a pick me girl who simply doesn't know any better, a pair of hands that deserve a break, a plethora of men who simply need to pipe down, an array of women who are doing their absolute best, and a two line feature from a guard who says exactly what we are all thinking; "I think you're all crazy, miss"
Profile Image for Rachel.
213 reviews4 followers
January 15, 2022
4.5 stars!

This book surprised me in a good way. It's a YA Fantasy with a typical premise: a bunch of young adults, women in this case, are embroiled in a competition with dire stakes. In a world where sexism is encoded deeply into every aspect of life, certain women are chosen by Benefactors for a competition to better themselves and secure higher positions in life. Unsurprisingly, much of this has to do with the prospects of each individual woman for marriage. It also has to do with their political cunning.

The difference between But For The Mountains and other books in this genre, however, was the main character. Arden Thatcher is a ward of a Benefactor, and definitely not one of the chosen few who get to attend the competition. She has spent many years of her life being systematically sexually abused by the Benefactor's son. She lives in fear of him. She has been made small by him. So one day, when in a twist of fate she winds up attending the competition, she feels horribly out of place and inadequate. (Please note that obviously this book includes quite graphic and scary sexual content at times, and should not be read lightly if you have any concerns about this content.)

I was very impressed by the way in which the author dealt with Arden's history of sexual abuse and its impact on her character and the character of others around her. It informed her choices, but did not encapsulate her entire story. Her story was about generally bettering herself, and realising what she actually wants in life, as well as wrestling with her past and her ongoing fears.

Also, I am normally unimpressed by love triangles, but the nuances of the love triangle in this book, given Arden's character, were very interesting. I found myself fully invested in one of the pairs by the end of the book, and intrigued as to how the other one might develop.

This is the start of an interesting, unique, and relevant story, in a well-fleshed-out fantasy world, with a protagonist who keeps me reading. The only reason it didn't get 5 stars is because at times some of the complications felt a bit too generic. But by the end of it, I forgave all of its more stereotypical moments in favour of enjoying these characters so much. Here's hoping the next book will be five stars!

Thank you to NetGalley and REUTS publications for providing me with a free eARC of this book! Unfortunately I didn't get to it in time for publication - in fact, I was so late that the next book is now out. The one benefit of this is that I get to jump right into the sequel, and you do too if you decide to read this book! I would highly recommend it.
Profile Image for bridget.
20 reviews7 followers
April 7, 2021
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an advanced copy of this book.

So.... this book was kind of The Selection meets Handmaid’s Tale? Someone tell me I’m wrong?

I will admit — with this book, I did something I never did. I read other reviews before starting. Shame on me. Doing this did leave me feeling both leery and weary. There is physical, mental, and sexual abuse within this book, and the latter starts on the very first page ( — it starts off with the main character being raped and it established that she is painfully used to it). I had to strongly weigh whether or not I could make it past the very first few pages. I pushed through, and by the time I finished, I found myself feeling very conflicted.

Of all of the characters, Arden is my favourite, for the sole fact she is the least misogynistic of all the characters, minus maybe Beck. They live in a society that hates and abuses women, so I suppose it was to be expected to see such cruel and awful behaviours, but it was so tiring to read. It’s heavy. The men hate women, the women hate women — minus Arden, our heroine — and it’s awful.

Despite its heaviness, the book finds brief moments of levity in almost every scene the swashbuckling pirate, Beck, is in. Despite him being a favourite of many of the other reviewers, I did not find myself so immediately charmed by him. I felt ... he was lacking depth despite having more background revealed than other characters.

Oh, did I mention this book has a love triangle? YA loves its love triangles, and I wonder if that trend will ever die. (Likely not!)

Something else that bothered me was the language the characters used. Some characters are of high status and speak eloquently, others put thought into what they say — all in all, it seemed pretty orderly and poised. Then I was thrown by use of phrases like “that sucks” and swears. While it makes sense ( sort of ???? ) for the characters to not speak like the highborns, their speech sometimes jolted me out of the narrative, which was unfortunate.

Coming to the end, I don’t know if I liked it. At times, I wanted to, but I struggled. Also, I didn’t realize this was the beginning of series, so that sucks. Will I read the next one? Perhaps. I might just google and find the answers that still press at me.

2.25 stars / 5 stars

PS: if Zerah doesn’t have a girlfriend in the next book ? I riot.
Profile Image for Samantha- The Paperback Collector.
455 reviews41 followers
May 20, 2021
Arden wasn’t supposed to be chosen for the Institute. She’s spent years as a glorified servant at the home of her benefactor, under the ever-present eyes and hands of his abusive son. At first she thinks her acceptance is a joke, but the men who usher her from her small coastside town in the dark of night are serious: Arden has a place at Nordania’s renowned National Women’s Institute. There, Arden will study with the other chosen young women, receive an elite education, and gain the perfect political placement for her future.

Or so she's been told.

With every day, it becomes clearer that the Institute isn’t the safe haven Arden had hoped it would be. Her benefactor’s claim over her person is the one thing she can’t escape from -- no matter what she does or who tries to save her, she’s in more danger than ever.

What’s the point in hoping for a better future when she might not be around to witness it?

My very first impression of this story is a better-written, more political The Selection -- all good things, I have to clarify. There’s a similar structure in that a girl is chosen, seemingly at random, from a group of many applicants to participate in a competition for the best marriage match in the nation. That being said, I consider But for the Mountains to be by far the stronger of the two books. There’s more focus on the politics of Nordania, and the education Arden gains, less attention paid to the romance -- and the quality of writing is at a much higher level, and assumes a certain level of maturity and intelligence in its audience.

I was drawn right into this read! The writing is beautiful, crafting the world of the story with gorgeous ease. The worldbuilding is intriguing if a bit limited; Arden is cooped up in the Institute and our only glimpses of the outside world are quite brief.

There is a great deal of the story that deals with abuse, the triggers that violence can create, and how trauma lives with you long after the fact. PTSD is no joke and this book gives it the gravity it deserves. Arden’s whole life is informed by her experiences and we see that with every choice she makes. It’s striking, and haunting. And not a tale for the faint of heart or for those who may be triggered themselves. While not overtly graphic, it is devastating.

My biggest complaint would be the utterly unnecessary love triangle, which not only could have been developed much further, but could have been excluded entirely.

I was not expecting an ending with things left wide open, I thought this was a standalone, but I am not complaining. I’m very curious to see where Arden’s journey takes her. I hope she finds peace at the end of the road.

But for the Mountains is a very real, relatable depiction of trauma and its triggers and how it can affect each and every decision you make day by day. I recommend for readers that look for stories that move them, and that don’t mind reading about the darkness before the light.

Trigger warning: sexual assault/abuse, violence, physical abuse, mentions of suicide and depression/self-harm, PTSD/panic attacks, alcoholism, bullying.

*Special thanks to the publisher, REUTS Publications, and NetGalley for providing an e-copy in exchange for a fair and honest review!*

Check out a more in-depth review over on my blog!
Profile Image for Aamna - The Ink Slinger .
180 reviews17 followers
April 27, 2021
Now finally getting into a review for this book: So a lot of people have been comparing it to The Selection series by Kiara Cass (which I'm not a huge fan of BTW), which is not wrong I guess, as the main setup of the book is quite similar. It's the same bachelor-esque trope where all these girls are competing for prince. I would like to say that it's definitely better than the selection in a lot of ways in my opinion but it also wasn't much better. 😅

When I saw this book on NetGalley, I was so intrigued because the synopsis and the cover kind of give me this cut-throat dark academia vibes, which I clearly misunderstood because it was nothing like I had expected, and not in a good way unfortunately.

I received an ARC in an exchange for an honest review via NetGalley. Thank you so much to Reuts Publication for giving me this opportunity.

TRIGGER WARNING ⚠️- sexual assault, physical abuse, harassment, trauma.

Prepare for a horde of mixed feelings below...

I had very high expectations going into this book. The beginning was quite strong as well, and for the first few chapters at least it's so good. Although the first chapter practically begins with the sexual assault (which makes it a little too on the nose 😕) it's still a strong beginning.

CHARACTERS- While I actually really like the main character Arden, she wasn't really someone I able to connect with. And David and Beck are just stupid.

You have no idea why David even likes Arden so much. It's as if it has been just fed into his system that he loves Arden but he doesn't care why. It was honestly the most prominent part of his personality.

And Beck, although slightly better, is still an idiot who says things like, "you hit like a girl." I just wished that the characters would have been more fleshed out.


One thing that you can really appreciate in this book is the examination of trauma a main character Arden is a victim of rape and sexual assault and the book really focuses on this aspect and allows us to really grow and learn through this ordeal I think this was really well done.

WORLD BUILDING- You are also really not gonna find any magic, or mythological creatures or any fantastical elements other than the fact that it is set in a different place that is not in our world. There really is no magic, so if you are expecting a uniquely different magic system or world building, that's not what this book is about.
Profile Image for Savannah Heil.
184 reviews4 followers
June 4, 2021
Thank you to NetGalley for access to this eARC!

For the most part, I really enjoyed this story. In other reviews I’ve seen many people compare it to “The Selection” series, but I’ve never read that so to me, the storyline/plot was unique.

A group of girls are selected to attend the National Women’s Institute which is a prestigious “school” for young women to learn, but mostly to impress the Prime Minister’s son (Declan) in hope that he’ll choose them for marriage. Main character, Arden, wanted none of that. She was just happy to be away from her abusive “benefactor” and his much more abusive son. But Declan has his sights set on Arden from the start, and although she initially resists, she can’t help her feelings toward him.

But then… love triangle! The rugged, “pirate,” Beck is attending some of the institute’s events because he boards there in between his treacherous work trips. Arden and Beck quickly form a friendship which turns into a little bit more. I’m not one for all the YA romance tropes, but I liked this love triangle. I actually could not figure out who I wanted Arden to be with (I was leaning a bit toward Beck though).

The beginning of this story was a bit slow, but it picked up about halfway through. There was a lot of action toward the end, and this is where I must complain. I saw in other reviews that this book is one of a series, but I can’t seem to verify that. I truly hope that’s the case because I was so disappointed with the abrupt ending. If that’s it, well, I’m mad. Even if it’s not, the ending could’ve been handled with a bit more care. This is the reason my review was below a 4 because I truly intended to give it that as I was reading.

Another question I had, which didn’t affect the story but just had me confused was… what time period is this? There are some hints to it being modern day or at least late 1900s, but then some stuff just had me like… okay, this can’t be modern. I couldn’t stop thinking about this as I read which was somewhat distracting.

In general, I enjoyed this story, but obviously had a few issues. If there truly is a sequel, I will be reading it because I must get closure on a few different aspects of the story. Here’s to hoping!
10 reviews1 follower
April 28, 2021
Trigger Warning: Sexual and Physical Assault, Alcohol, Self Harm, Bullying

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me an ARC!

Arden lives a life where she was plucked from her family to be trained to possibly attend a prestigious school for women in the land of Nordania. Not only does she not get trained but she also suffers at the hands of an abuser. She unexpectedly ends up attending the school and has to deal with feelings of inadequacy but also keep her dark secret hidden. Things progress and she becomes a top student but at the same time still has to deal with the heartbreaking reality of her origins. Her feelings are pulled between the prince-like Declan and the pirate Beck as she learns to trust others and heal. Things change in a matter of days when her obsessed abuser does anything in his power to seek revenge. She finds herself on the run, second guessing what she wants and wondering where life will take her.

I enjoyed the story in this book, it was relatively fast paced and kept my interest the whole time. I like stories about women who overcome bad circumstances and find happiness/what they really want in the end. I will probably happily pick up the second book of this series when it comes out just to see what happens (Team Beck). That being said, there wasn't enough development, for me, of the fictional world that was created so I had to shut off the part of my brain that wanted to understand better what kind of world they were living in or what time era they were living in. At one minute they are driving cars and then the next the "pirates" are sailing a wooden ship. In the whole book not a single person spoke with an accent but then at the very end one random lady in a port town yelled at them in a really thick accent. It honestly seemed to jump back and forth between time periods and it was confusing. Also, I like the characters in the book and am hoping to maybe learn more about them in the next one because I feel like this first book barely touched the surface of who they even are. I would have a hard time openly recommending this book because the of main character's history of sexual assault.
May 22, 2021
Truly, I would give is a 3.5 or 3.75 stars but that option isn't available so I went with a 3.

Thank you to the Publisher and NetGalley for an ARC to read and then review.

TW!!! Sexual Assault, Violence, Abuse, Profanity, and Bullying

Quick synopsis...The Selection turned dark. Before getting ahead on that though, I want to mention that I did not enjoy The Selection series but I did however enjoy reading But For The Mountains.

The main character Arden faces a new challenge with competition, drama, and jealousy when she is chosen to attend the institute. She is behind all of the other girls and never even wanted to be there in the first place.
All the while enduring these new trials, Arden is still dealing with other personal trauma that is affecting her while around even the people she should feel safe with.

The main premise of the book is that a select few girls are chosen to attend what is basically a finishing school and of course the "First Son", who is basically the Prince, shows up and begins to meet and get to know all of the girls. This is the main part where it follows The Selection by Cass.

Arden is one of the strongest main characters I have read in a while. Her physical strength and eagerness to grow stronger is amazing on its own but her mental and emotional strength from going through her trauma and still looking past it, trying so hard to not let it define her is what really shows her character and true strength.

Overall, I enjoyed the writing and the characters (especially Beck) but it only get a 3.5/5 to me partially because of its similarity to The Selection, and mostly because of the cheesy and petty jealousy from the other girls that takes away from the true tasks that Arden is accomplishing.
Profile Image for bookventures_of_a_wildflower.
76 reviews15 followers
April 26, 2021
✨ I've received an e-copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

✨ This book is one of my favourite reads that I received for review via netgalley. It follows the story of Arden, a girl who wins admission to a prestigious Academy offering a future with prominent government positions. Going to the Academy provides Arden a chance to leave a tormentor and a less than luxurious life behind while hoping for a better future. After she meets the other girls selected, Arden has to realize that the academy is not as it was advertised. Instead of working towards a high profile position, the girls are polished to the liking of influential and wealthy men. This includes the son of the Prime Minister, the number one bachelor to be enchanted.

✨ I really loved how fast this story sucked me in. Arden was a very genuine character including her many flaws. I also enjoyed the fact that she was not the perfect student from day one. I know a lot of people think that the catty personas of the girls was undermining female enpowerment, but I think it was a very realistic representation of how things would go down during a competition such as this.
What I missed was more positive characters. Especially male ones. The story is very dark and tells a story of a world where man hold the power over everything including women. To break up this darkness I would have liked to see a few more decent characters.

✨ The book very much feels like a first in a series. It leaves a lot of lines unfinished and us wondering. The reader can also guess that world is vastly different from how it was represented to our heroine, but we don’t know for sure what the reality is. I read many reviews about the similarities between this book and The selection series, but since I’ve not read the latter I can’t really say how similar the two are.

✨ I am very much looking forward to diving into this world again, mostly because of a very sarcastic captain, who owns a SHIP.

✨ The book also has many major trigger warnings, including rape, so I suggest you checking them out prior to reading it.
Profile Image for Susan.
293 reviews6 followers
April 27, 2021
There are parts of this book that I really enjoyed and others that really fell flat. In the end, it was a fairly middle of the road read for me.

As others have said, it's a dark version of The Selection. I'd call it a sort of Hunger Games/Selection combo with a snarky pirate who reminded me of Rhett Butler. I liked this book overall but something about it just didn't pull me into the story. Arden, Beck, and Declan were all pretty good characters who were well developed and I liked the way their stories unfolded. But the overall plot was lacking.

I found myself not picking it up regularly and getting distracted. In the beginning, this was just because the plot was way too slow and the world/characters hadn't been developed enough for me to get behind the slow-moving plot. Once things picked up a bit, the story just didn't flow in a way that made me want to keep reading. A lot of the chapters end rather abruptly in a sort of fade to black manner that left gaps in the story and meant I wasn't eager to keep moving to the next chapter.

I really enjoyed the beginnings of Arden and Declan getting to know each other and the last 10% of the book. That last bit really was great and I wish the twist had come sooner to allow that plot to be more fully explored and played out. This one definitely has a bit of an ambiguous ending which is never to my liking unless there's a sequel and I don't see any mentions of that happening. The loose ends just didn't work for me. I needed an epilogue or one more chapter to finish this one satisfied.

The sections of this book that were good were very good but there were just too many slow moving parts and skips in timeline to get me fully invested. That said, if you're good with the trigger warnings, I did enjoy it and don't regret picking it up.

** I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for P α t r i c i α.
152 reviews138 followers
October 25, 2020
Well, I can say that I have a conflict of interest here... (Trigger Warning: physical abuse and rape).

I really liked how Arden was able to overcoming her trauma after been abused and how she evolve from been absent when her abuser was near her to confront him. I also loved Beck, (maybe my favorite character), he is a pirate —well, a "swift merchant with a sexy boat"—, a drunk and hilarious character with a lot of sarcasm... A character like him makes everything better.

On the other hand, altough I really enjoyed the book, there was one thing I hated about the plot, something I hated from the beginning to the end: how the women were objectifying in that society, they were mere mecancy to trade, as you can see when the other contestants dissapeared or get a placement (what practically means get married to someone with money and power to be a trophy wife). The only thing I didn't hate about this issue is that the MC was aware of this and tried to get Declan, the First Son/Prince (I'm confuse about this...), to see it as well... and she really tries.

So... why 4 stars? Well, I loved how it ends, it's not your common happily ever after and I loved it. It's a open ending, so the story can still go on; I don't know if the author plans to do so, but hopefully not, this open ending is the one the protagonist deserves.

"So long as I can find north, I’ll find my way".
Profile Image for B.S. Casey.
Author 2 books17 followers
July 2, 2021
Every year, the National Women’s Institute of Nordania select a few lucky candidates to study with them and become the future leaders of the world - a life away from being the unchosen, and a life Arden could never imagine. But when her name is announced and she is finally whisked away to her new life of freedom away from her abusive life at home, it's not what she'd dreamed of at all. Rather than learning, Arden seems to just be wearing gowns and competing for attention - it seems like she's traded one cage for another and she's going to need all the strength in the world to break out.

Now, this book featured some of the YA tropes you either love or hate - vaguely evil elite club, love triangles, fighting for the love of the prince, all that song and dance - and while for me it made this feel somewhat lacklustre it definitely gave a pleasant familiarity to the story. The world building however, was stunning and I loved the lore and history created within this story. Arden was brilliantly written and a wonderful heroin, I really enjoyed seeing her overcome and grow throughout the story.

This was a lot darker than expected, and dealt with a lot of abuse from assault and rape, self harm and bullying. And while it wasn't particularly graphic, the emotional and lasting impact was portrayed vividly and took me by surpise, a lot of readers might find this uncomfortable to read.

As the first in a series, I'm definitely interested to see where this goes next.

Profile Image for Anwen.
89 reviews
April 18, 2021
I was provided with a Kindle copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, so thank you to them!

TW: rape, rape threat, sexual assault, rape drugs, threatened sexual assault.

This book is marketed as a darker version of the Selection, which it definitely is, with the two love interests, the girls competing for the prince (prime minister’s son), and the prince being infatuated with the MC (Arden Thatcher) from the beginning when they have no real connection, barely know each other, and the MC ‘isn’t there to fall in love with him’. However, this book also dealt with Arden’s abuser and her struggling to survive through the course with his shadow looming over her.
I had several problems with this book. First of all, the book is VERY VERY similar to The Selection, which yes i did enjoy but its WEIRDLY SIMILAR. Also there is one part where the other love interest must make Arden leave the room without causing a big fuss, so of course he does the natural thing and takes advantage of her abusive past, by objectifies her and talks about her cleavage to her face to get her to storm out, quite rightly so. He apologises for this after, but i can’t help but feel there could have been an easier way? Second of all, there was another instance of the prime minister’s son being head over heels in love with Arden from the beginning, even though all they ever do is argue, and she is never very nice to him. To be fair, he does do a terrible thing to one of her friends, which she mentions at any moment, even once he has tried to correct it, has explained the situation and has admitted he made a mistake. The point is, she shouts at him mostly, and then gets angry when he does what he is supposed to do, and talks to the other girls! Also, this boy uses the line, ‘you’re not like those other girls’. So, do with that what you will.
I will probably read the second one, and this was a very quick read, but I thought Arden was quite irritating, and her love interests were... flawed to say the least. I normally adore this type of stuff, so I’m so disappointed that it wasn’t for me! From the ending of this book, i think the sequel with have a more pirate storyline, but i always love, so i’m excited for that! But if you’re looking for something to quench your Selection thirst, i do think you should try this!
Profile Image for Bri.
4 reviews1 follower
May 1, 2021
(copied from my review on NetGalley. thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the e-book in exchange for an honest review)

Arden is a traumatized character who's learning her own strength. I love a strong female lead and Arden was everything I hoped for. She is a survivor whos story is simply inspirational. I especially loved the part where the phrase "But for the Mountains" gets defined. Without spoiling anything, "but for the mountains" is my new favorite motivational phrase and I want it on a sticker.

BECK!!! He deserves his own section in this review. I am in love with him. He is everything. As simple as that. I could not get into Declan as he just wouldn't fight or protect Arden the way she needed him to. Beck was there to protect AND build her up. Okay I'm stopping this little bit about the guys because I feel like I could write an essay on these two men.

I saw this as a darker, more exciting version of The Selection. I stayed up until 3am to finish this last night because I was so hooked. The ending was perfect but I need more!!! Will be recommending this one to others in the future!

CONTENT WARNINGS! Should have a page in front dedicated to content warnings due to HEAVY subject matter.
Profile Image for Brynne.
51 reviews2 followers
April 25, 2021
I received this arc in exchange for an honest review, CONTAINS SPOILERS

This book contains talk of sexual assault

This book was a wild ride of emotions.  Arden Thatcher is chosen to enter a prestigious academy that will teach her how to be the perfect lady, and give her a prestigious political placement upon graduating.

Upon arriving, Arden meets the prince, but all intimate interactions are forbidden, and she could be expelled.

*spoilers to follow*

I hated how Declan was so two faced in this book.  He made you like him and then he turned around and did something incredibly selfish each time. Beck seemed like the better choice for me but it was left very open ended so the reader can decide on an appropriate ending of events.
I was disappointed that Arden didn't really get a happy ending, but as the book says, changes happen slowly and she did bring about change within her world. Overall it was a good read
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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