**spoiler alert** I have mixed feelings with this book. It was good, but, as it was the last on the series, it was also my last chance to get all the**spoiler alert** I have mixed feelings with this book. It was good, but, as it was the last on the series, it was also my last chance to get all the answers I craved for, and in the end, most of them didn’t come. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but, just like with the previous book, it lacked something. It’s impossible to read this series and not notice that there’s a lot of potential in certain aspects that, in the end, don’t get fully developed. I was left with many unanswered questions here.
The characters, throughout the entire series, are great. Bree is still this girl with a frank attitude and curt responses, whose practicality, and the way her da raised her, don’t let her become the princess she’s supposed to be. I loved her, and I liked that, in this book, she could find her own leadership skills, and recognize the Nereids as her people. Also, I’m glad she and Aleta were able to deepen their friendship and overcome the obstacles, finding forgiveness in despite of everything that happened between them. As for the romance with Caden, it doesn’t get much development here. They clearly like and respect each other, and have feelings for one another, and there’s a suggestion of what they can become in the future, but right then, at the end of the story, duty has to come first. And that’s a good thing, because the author didn’t fall into the platitudes that normally rule fantasy novels. It’s not the typical ending. As much as I liked Caden, if they had ended up happily ever after, I, as a reader, would have had something to complain about, because I would have never understood why, as there wasn’t much between them as to build such a relationship.
Also, I liked that Bree didn’t take the crown as Queen of Nereidium. It wouldn’t have been very believable if she suddenly was fit for that role, but she knew that, even being the rightful heir to the throne, she wasn’t meant for it. It was not her fate, but at least she didn’t abandon her people, leaving them in good hands, and assuming her duty as Kyrene’s descendant, which is an honorable destiny for someone of her lineage. She made the right choice, giving the power to Aleta and placing her as governor; after all, she was raised for it, and with her temper, she had everything that’s needed to be a monarch.
Something I like about Jennifer Ellision’s writing is the way she gave every character a distinct voice, especially in books two and three, as she switches the characters’ POV. As I read, it was very clear when Bree, Caden or Aleta were talking, especially with Aleta, given her elegant choice of words that reflected the way she grew up. I liked how much she grew as a person, after suddenly finding herself stripped from her title, and losing her purpose in life upon knowing she would never be queen, because she decided to take the reins of her life, instead of playing the damsel in distress. She has a temper, and that’s great. She was destined to be a heroine after all, in despite of everything.
Just like in the previous book, this one doesn’t delve into the past. I was really hoping to read more about both Aleta’s past, and Tregle’s, but the story revolves more around their present circumstances, and their Torching. I really, really wanted to know more about Aleta, because, just think about it, her story could have been totally different, if Katerine hadn’t taken her to the palace. I mean, wouldn’t she have questions after finding out that she wasn’t Nereidium’s true princess? If I were her, I would be wondering about my parents, my birthplace, my family... I would look for them, or at least try to figure out what happened to them. Is she not even a little curious about those things? But, sadly there’s nothing about it. Also, there’s not another mention of Elena’s past or her history at the service of the king. Although there’s a novella for that, Sisters of Wind and Flame, that I will read, and I hope, will give some insight into the sisters’ general story.
About the Elemental powers, a good thing is that, in this book, we could know more about the four of them (if only a little), and also, Shakers were more important, which is something I really wanted to read about, given the lengths of their power, with the very Earth at their command. We could learn that Elemental powers are not always what they are meant to be, like in Everett’s case, whose Shaker abilities brought only destruction, dead plants, and earthquakes. And also, we could know about how far an Elemental can go if willing to truly be one with his/her Element, which was a great surprise. Reading about Aleta turning into a fire menace, after her loved ones were threatened, showed how much she’s fire, both literally and metaphorically. No one messes with Aleta. No one. And I loved her for that, she was my favorite character. Just one thing: what happened with Ruin’s Reaping? After having such disastrous effects on the previous books, being out of the Torchers’ control, and the king’s secret, lethal weapon, it didn’t have the importance I thought it would have.
Again, there was nothing about those Elementals capable of handling more than one element at the same time, like Katerine and Elena. But around the final battle, we know that the king has conquered the Elements without being an Elemental himself, and that was something I definitely didn’t see coming. It was a great final showdown, gripping and exciting, and I couldn’t put it down, thinking “finally the Makers showed up to clean some of the mess!”. But the questions, again. How did Langdon do it? How did he master the elements? He only says that his Tutors figured out a method, but there’s no further details. There’s just one chapter between them discovering this, and then defeating the king, with no explanation about how things happened. Not that there’s much time to explain, but still. I think that something that big deserves more than just a few words about it.
The battle with Everett in Abeline was breathtaking and had me at the edge of my seat. That was truly a moment in which I felt I was there with them, in the middle of the fight. It was pure intensity and action, and when one of Everett’s branches practically stabbed the Shaker Olivia, it was so sudden, that I literally gasped. Same as with Tregle and Caden, but especially with Tregle. My mind just rejected the idea of him being gone, and I realized how much I grew to like him. I didn’t want to say goodbye to him, especially when things had started to work out with Aleta, the barriers separating them finally down. I was like “No. No. No! That didn’t happen!”. Complete denial. But all that lead to finally learn more about the true reach of what it means to have Elemental powers in this world.
As I mentioned before, I was left with many questions around the story. For example, I was glad to be able to know Nereidium, its people and their traditions, faith, architecture, training in Water Wielding… but I would have liked to know if, once Egria’s threat over Nereidium was over and Caden was king, could they, somehow, unblock all those poor Water Throwers that could never get in contact with their Element after what Langdon did to the Nereids? It was possible to undo what they did out of revenge? I really, really wanted to know. Also, what about the Underground? Clift only appeared briefly, and there wasn’t much about this rebel organization. In my opinion, giving some details about it would have added complexity and layers to the story. We know they are rebels, but that’s it. We never get to know who they are, or what they do to undermine the king’s iron rule. They barely participate on the final battle, even when Lilia and Elena gathered many of them in Clavins. They are just kind of there, if you know what I mean.
Also, what about all those romances playing out in the background? I was rooting for Liam and Meddie, they clearly were in love, or at least they liked each other, but the epilogue –that is, our very last chance to know what happened to this people we’ve been following for quite some time–, doesn’t say much. According to Caden, they were in Egria “seeing to the dismantling of Elemental conscription in my stead.”, and that may be enough for some readers, but not for me. I really, really wanted them together. Also, about Elena and Lilia, were they in love? Yes, in my opinion, but also, there’s not another mention of what happened with them, save that “they have the training camp well in hand”. Seriously, that’s it? Not even a hint about if they got together or not?
Finally, a word on both the names and the books’ covers. In this saga, names confuse me from time to time, because, on one hand, we have names like Bree, Caden, Aleta, Everett, and Helen, which are real names, from our own world, but on the other hand, we have names like Tregle, Jospuhr, Medalyn, Izador and Orlova, which are completely made up names. I know each author can do as he/she pleases, but in my opinion, if we are talking about a fantasy world unlike our own, it has to be one of two things: or you make all of them up, or you don’t. But, I repeat, that’s just MY OPINION. And I’m not complaining nor criticizing, just stating a fact about something I noticed. As for the covers, it puzzles me that Bree appears wearing those elegant dresses, because they are not her at all. It may be plausible in the first book’s cover, because she was being trained in the manners of a royal, but after that, there’s not even a moment for her to wear such dresses, between them fleeing Egria, and the war. And Nereidium has a lot of Ancient Greece on it, including the clothes, so that big purple dress on this book’s cover feels out of place. Bree is more of a breeches type of girl, and perhaps that would have to be shown on the covers to truly reflect her. But again –and as many times it’s necessary to mention it–, this is just my opinion.
I will definitely read the three novellas that accompany this saga, and I’m especially eager to read Breathe In, because it offers a short story about Duke Ardin and Lady Corrine, and I’m really curious about it. So, in short, it is a very good fantasy saga, but it had all those things that left me with questions, and that’s not what the final book in a series should do. Overall, I liked Jennifer Ellision’s style, she was a great discovery, and I will gladly read more of her stories in the future!
**spoiler alert** I liked this book very much. It has action, romance, fantasy worldbuilding, and everything I love about a good story. But, I’m afrai**spoiler alert** I liked this book very much. It has action, romance, fantasy worldbuilding, and everything I love about a good story. But, I’m afraid, I felt it lacked something. Let me explain myself.
This book picks up exactly where the previous one left it, right after Kat and Bree’s da’s deaths, and we meet our characters on the run for their lives, from the terrible King Langdon. Bree is still a great character, stranded in the middle between the barmaid and the royal. I love her practicality, her quick wit, and her curt, no-nonsense responses. She’s definitely not perfect, nor a princess, and she’s not to be trifled with. I love her attitude, her spunky manners, and the fact that she’s never a false person, having no qualms about saying what she thinks. I like her as a person, and in this book, I’m glad she could deepen her relationship with her friends and discover her powers as a Water Thrower. But after the first book, I ended up with a lot of questions that, sadly, weren’t answered. The plot centers mainly on the escape from Egria and the king’s clutches, and that’s pretty much all there is. There’s no new hints of Bree’s past, or her da’s, nor about her true parents, or Nereidium… And I really wanted to know more. Also, there’s little to no presence of Elementals in this book, we don’t get to know many new things about them, save Aleta and Tregle’s torching, and that Bree, as a Thrower, is able to breath underwater, because the Elements don’t harm their wielders. Shakers barely appear, and I’m sure they are more powerful than what can be read in the scene with the bandits. And, sadly, neither there’s anything about people like Kat, able to wield two elements at the same time. With that I’m not saying that the book is bad, I speak for myself saying that I would have liked to know all those things.
As I said, with Bree and her friends’ journey, and Caden’s quest to gather a rebel army and defy his father’s tyrannical reign, there’s practically no time to delve into the past, nor into the special characteristics of some places, like Clavins. But neither about the present, apparently, because we get to know characters like Meddie, Clifts and Liam, as a part of the Underground movement to dethrone Langdon, and there’s not even much about it. How many of them are they, what they do, where they are, how they work… It’s a rebellion, after all! I just hope we get to know more about it in the next book.
I liked all the new characters, especially the sisters from Masonstone, Elsbeth, Dorna and Lilia, and mostly Lilia, because she’s a royal, but also a natural warrior, and I felt really bad about what happened to her family, they didn’t deserved that. I also liked that we could know more –if only a little– about Kat, both through her ghost and her twin sister, Elena. And just like in the previous book, I loved Aleta, she’s still that strong, smart, stubborn girl, fit to be a queen, and I want to know more about her, like who her parents are, where she was born, how Kat found her… I like her relationship with Tregle, and I only grew a little tired of her bickering with Meddie, although even they knew when to stop and work together. The way Aleta is and was raised, surely she was going to find something to criticize in someone else’s leadership skills. Only a word on them after they were captured by the bandits and imprisoned: finding them felt a little too… simple? I mean, an overheard conversation revealed they were all together in the same prison, but I think it would have added complexity to their adventure if one of them was already sold as a slave, or something, and the master was a staunch supporter of the king, for example. But I’m not complaining, just stating the fact.
Again, and just like in the previous book, the love story isn’t well developed. I simply can’t see the chemistry between Caden and Bree, I don’t see where that irresistible pull to each other lies, if they barely interact in this book, and all the sudden they can’t live without each other. I, as a reader, just can’t root for a couple I don’t throughout understand. It’s not clear why they like each other, and their attraction doesn’t make much sense, at least for me. I do hope, however, that it gets better in the next book. As for Caden’s part of the story, I felt it lacked a big part that we deserved to know. He manages to escape the battle after the disaster caused by Ruin’s Reaping, but after that, we don’t get to know anything else about him, except the assumption of his death after the letter Liam reads (that I never believed, sorry). And suddenly, a couple of chapters later, he and Lilia appear alive in Clavins, and never say how they made it, or how they escaped after being defeated, and that would have been an interesting story, especially after the vicious attack and the new weapon they faced.
A word on the villain. It’s amazing how, even when King Langdon only has one scene in the entire book, is a constant presence that infuses permanent terror, mostly based on the force of his army. As a reader, I couldn’t help feeling how terrible he is and the lengths he’s ready to reach in the pursuit of his goals. Even when he’s out of the picture, I felt like he was everywhere, and that’s the best way to create a villain, in my opinion: scary, even when he’s not even there. But also as Caden’s father, a man he knew since forever, and now has become this twisted version of himself he needs to overthrow for the sake of his people.
The last part was just awesome, the sea battle was amazing, and it had me at the edge of my seat. Bree could finally let loose her Throwing abilities to save her loved ones and reach Nereidium, and perhaps it is me, that I read too many fantasy stories, but she finally did what it is always needed to wield any kind of power, and that I knew before her: feel it as a part of her, running through her veins, an indivisible part of her essence… Like she is water and water is her. Although as nobody explained that to her, is understandable. As for that cliffhanger in the end, it was mean, and it just makes me need to know more. How Aleta will react, how the people in the island will treat their princess after so many years… It makes me want to read the next book right now. And that’s what I’m going to do, for certain.
So, in short, it was a good book, but it had these moments, like the romance, that I wish, were more developed, and I definitely wanted to know more about the past, to care a little more about the present. It was, however, a really interesting adventure, and I’ll be reading the next installment as soon as I can!
**spoiler alert** I’ve been following Jenna Moreci’s vlog for a while, and every time she mentioned her book, I grew curiouser and curiouser about it,**spoiler alert** I’ve been following Jenna Moreci’s vlog for a while, and every time she mentioned her book, I grew curiouser and curiouser about it, but I just couldn’t get a copy to finally read it, until now. It is my first SciFi novel ever, so I wasn’t sure about what to expect, but I’m definitely impressed. It was amazing! Really good for a first novel! Jenna Moreci is a gifted writer, I will definitely read more by her, and I can’t wait for her second book, The Savior’s Champion, that won’t be a part of the Eve series, but a fantasy romance novel. There's a confirmed release date, and a book trailer is out right now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-wR7...
I’m a huge fan of Jenna Moreci’s vlog, her videos are funny, witty, and brutally honest about what it means to be a writer. I’m not really sure for how long I’ve been watching them, but I like to replay them almost every day, especially when I’m feeling sad or somewhat sick of the world out there. So, this review will mix both my appreciation as a reader and an aspiring writer, based on my experience as both, and some things I saw on Jenna’s vlog. This is especially important (at least for me) because we rarely ever get to know more about the authors than their books and how they worked on them. But here, it’s different. Jenna shares her personal writing experience, her techniques, and her way to see some parts of the whole process, and gives us tips to improve ourselves, and also to get back to earth, not only in how to write certain parts of our novels, but also to forget a little about that perfect fantasy in which you are already a published and successful writer with tons of books and fans, bringing us to reality with brutal honesty, and telling us how being a writer isn’t just about writing, but also marketing, editing, and, let’s be honest, not getting very well paid (which may be not what we want to hear, but we need to). She’s unapologetically herself, and she reflects that in her writing. And in my opinion, a person who isn’t afraid of being herself at all times, and doing what she really wants to, loyal to her own dreams, and in love with her profession, it’s someone worthy of imitation.
But back to Eve! Every character is unique on its own, each one with special talents and personalities, layers and complex lives. I really liked the protagonist, Evelyn Kingston, and one of the best parts was that I could see many things of me on her. Creating a relatable character is key to feel it as a real person, and Eve falls on that place. She has both virtues and flaws, habits that come to the surface when she’s nervous (we all can think a bunch of them of our own, right?), like picking up her cuticles, and she isn’t a dazzling beauty, she’s just your average girl, with brown eyes and hair, and I could mostly relate to her because of the bullying she suffered through her entire life. Obviously, my case wasn’t like Eve’s, and although I was never physically bullied, it did happen on a daily basis, and verbal bullying is equally bad, it should never, ever be dismissed. But that’s another day’s topic. My point is that Eve is a very strong character. She is the only girl taking combat classes, and although she’s often verbally abused by her classmates for the sole fact of being a girl in an entire male class, she knows how to demand respect, and instead of suffering in silence, she kicks her bullies in the ass and leaves them bleeding and hurting. She’s a no-nonsense person. She demands respect, and has no qualms about demanding the answers and explanations she needs, no matter the station of the person she’s dealing with. She can both beat Chin Dimple up in combat class (loved that part), and yell to Billington’s dean in the face, completely unafraid of him. I love her for that. It’s really fun to see her giving the people who are mean to her what they deserve. She’s been through a lot of horrible things, and she won’t take more of that if she can help it.
As for her nature as a chimera, I’ve seen other reviews referring to Eve being the world’s most powerful chimera as a cliché, but I don’t see it that way. In my opinion, this is well done. I mean, in a world of evolved humans with special abilities, I would definitely want to know the story around the most powerful of them all, especially considering how regular people despise them. I just hope that in future books we get some kind of explanation around the reason of this evolution of humans into some sort of super-humans (humanovus). Are they evolved so they can fight interlopers, as some sort of natural adaptation to the new threat? That’s only one of my questions. An especially good bonus point is that Eve already knows her powers and instead of reading about her discovering them and learning how to control them, we get to see her in full control of them, and how she teaches someone else to do it (even when nobody taught her, she learned on her own). However, there’s something I don’t fully understand. I can see why people hated and bullied Eve, she has a history around the accident in which her parents died, and she couldn’t control her powers, killing the man who crashed his truck on their car. But I don’t fully understand why people hate chimeras so much. It’s not their fault to have been born like that, but still, I think that, in any case, chimeras should be the ones hating humans, because they are the evolved ones, and hence, superior to them.
As I said, there’s an entire cast of characters that made me laugh and gasp out loud. The sarcastic hacker, JJ, is really interesting, key to the success of their quest, and I definitely want to know more about her backstory, so I hope there’s more about her in future books. Sancho is also really witty, funny, and with a bit of a mad scientist, obsessed with weapons and blowing up things; he says balls every time something goes wrong, it’s hilarious! And he’s loyal to death, he didn’t doubt it when he had to stay back to give their friends the opportunity to escape, and I really feared for his life. I literally left out a sigh of relief when I found out he was alive. And of course, Percy, my dear Percy LaFleur! I utterly loved him! It’s the first time I read an openly gay character, as in other books, they are always secretive about it, but this one is just frank, and amazingly captivating. Rich, eccentric, and proud of it, he’s as capable of shooting an alien in the face as to take you in a one-day trip to New York in his private jet. He’s also a loyal friend, and his date with Madison is the funniest scene of his, and probably in the whole book. Oh, the lengths you go to help your friends, and also thwart an evil menace of winged aliens!
The fight scenes are AWESOME! I don’t know how to describe them, you need to read the book to understand what I mean, but I can tell you feel every punch, every shot, every gasp and scream! And the interlopers’ buildup and anatomy is brilliantly written. I could totally visualize in my head how their fangs protruded from their jaws, protecting their life source, and their overall scary aspect. The whole plot around the beacon, the torq, and the second skin… Pfff! AMAZING!! The final battle, in the interlopers’ lair, is everything you can imagine, and obviously, it is greatly written, with the exact amount of dialogue and action required for it to be fast-paced and climatic, keeping you at the edge of your seat. I won’t say anything more, you need to read it to understand how much. I would like to cover all the details, but I can’t. I just would like to mention the scene at the Meltdown, the chimera club. It bothers me when people in books do not connect the dots, I mean, you found out that interlopers are disguised as humans, hunting for chimeras and dissecting them, but you don’t think that it may be some of them in a place literally full of chimeras, openly displaying their abilities? But again, only Eve and her friends know about it, so I’ll let it sly.
On the other hand, we have the villains of the story, aside from Fairon and the interlopers. They are amazingly well written, as I truly got to hate them all, especially Madison Palmer. She’s a rich, spoiled, child-like bully, who has her life mapped out in front of her, which includes marrying an equally rich guy from her list of possible suitors. I didn’t fully like the words she uses, like barftastic and suckgasmic, but again, she’s the only one who uses them, so they are a reflection of her character. And she’s relatable, in the way that we all know at least three or four Madison Palmers in our daily lives (at least, I do). As for her condition… Yeah, big surprise. Well done, Jenna! Only one thing about her: when Eve found the ashes on Madison’s bed, it was a bit too obvious. I mean, you scribble DIE CHIME in the walls of an entire classroom, but you don’t want to give yourself away, so you spread the ashes in your bed? Right. It was clear that it wasn’t Madison’s doing, because she wouldn’t give herself away that easily. She’s not very clever, but she’s definitely smarter than that.
Heather McLeod is a whole case in herself. She’s also evil, but her malice is cold, and calculated. She’s more machine-like, she goes for her own interests, and I can’t wait for a scene in which Eve gets to kick her ass as she deserves. She’s smart, and scary, and knows when to act, especially if there’s an open wound, and she just has to dig a little deeper to cause more pain, on her favor, obviously. The thing is that, as I read about her and saw how hateable she was, I admit that I considered the possibility that she was an interloper, but then I realized that it was a misleading clue. Again, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t buy it for a big part of the book, but after a few chapters I just knew I should be looking elsewhere, she was the ideal interloper in disguise, so I turned my eyes towards those who seemed too nice, like Professor Clarke, who publicly defended Eve after her humiliation, because, who would do that for a chimera if there’s not a hidden purpose behind it?
As for Hayden, I suspected something wrong with her, simply because she followed Madison around like a lapdog, doing exactly what she was told, and then, she ended up under Heather’s thumb. I found myself thinking, “no, she’s not worth a thing, it can’t be her”, and then, for that very thing, I realized that it was exactly the wrong thing to think; the lapdog would show her fangs at some moment.
And we get to my favorite part! The love story! The bonus point is that there’s no love triangle. Of course, Jenna says that they are the dumbest thing ever, and I agree, so I was sure (and grateful) she wouldn’t write any of that in her novel. Eve and Jason’s story is truly beautiful and it had me rooting for them the entire book. They fall in love with one another through their tutoring sessions, when Jason’s power as a chimera awakens, after having been kidnapped and dissected by interlopers. It may have happened somewhat quickly, but it’s ok. I liked it, anyway, and a lot! Eve has a really hard time letting people in, she’s been bullied and abused her entire life, and being with Jason, she discovers she doesn’t have to pretend to be anything she isn’t. She understands that he wouldn’t hurt her, and finds someone who cares for her and wants to be with her exactly for who she is. She doesn’t make a single effort for him to like her, she just does what she has to, and there’s a no-pretending relationship between them. She never puts up masks when he’s there, she’s purely herself, and they get to know one another at their worst, openly expressing their feelings and opinions. Virtues, flaws, and fears, Jason truly wants everything she is and loves her exactly for those things the world hates her for. He understands that she’s someone not to mess with, and she doesn’t treat him like a weak, sick person, but goes straightforward and tells him all the truths about his nature as a chimera. She opens him to this new world in which he definitely will suffer, as he struggles to dominate his powers, and there’s also a public image to maintain, as his father is a very powerful politician, and considers his name and family tainted by his own son’s nature. But Eve becomes his strength, his reason to fight, the fuel to his fire. One insult towards her is enough for him to go full chimera. His scene beating Chin Dimple up was the proof of his love, because it was the ultimate trigger he needed to unleash his gift towards him and punish him. Needless to say, it was a great scene. And their first kiss! I read it few times and I love how they don’t fight against their feelings once they acknowledge them, knowing that they both want this… I eagerly wait for more scenes with Eve and Jason together, I loved them with all my heart!
In her vlog, Jenna says that dialogue is a strong point of hers, and that is clearly visible. Most dialogues are written with little or no narrative, and it flows, reflecting the character’s emotions through it. They are strong, and you can practically imagine the characters’ voices in your head, whatever they are saying. And although she says she hates setting the scene and most forms of narrative, she's still good at them! But there’s one thing I especially want to mention, that happens right at the start of the novel. Jenna tells us all we need to know about chimeras right from the get go. She throws all the information we need to understand Eve’s nature, and that isn’t something I fully criticize –everyone has their own style–, but still, I would have done things a bit differently. As an aspiring writer, I’ve been writing since I was ten years old, and I’ve developed my own personal style. I believe that, if you have created an entire race of beings, or in this case, a group of evolved humans, and know everything about them, you shouldn’t give away every single piece of information at the first possible opportunity. You shouldn’t use all your bullets in one shooting, because, that way, you can create surprises and plot twists to use in the future, that will help you surprise your readers, and engross them even more into the story. As the author, you should know way more than you give away, and keeping things to yourself can help you create new powers and abilities that will help in the deepening of this characters’ nature. But that’s just my opinion.
Another thing I noticed, that it is also mentioned in the vlog, is the very strict outlining. I never truly outlined, I made plans for my stories, but I never strictly followed a previously structured plotline. In my personal opinion, writing should be a mix between outlining, and letting the story flow. I know that just letting it flow on its own can cause plot holes, and other nasty things, but a really structured outline from which I cannot look away…? It’s not for me (at least for now, that may change someday, who knows?). Part of the beauty in writing is to see the character take a shape that perhaps wasn’t what you planned. In short, you should have a plan, but also cut yourself some slack, and at some parts, let your characters tell you some of their story. But that’s just my humble opinion.
Finally, not much left to say (like I haven’t said enough already), except, read this book! And take a look at Jenna's vlog –especially if you are an aspiring writer–, here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCS_f.... If you love SciFi, it is for you! Perhaps I should warn you that it contains a lot of swearing, lots of blood and violence, and some mature content, that I wasn’t completely happy to read, but still, it’s an utterly good book, and you should give it a try! I will, for sure, read the next installments of the series!
**spoiler alert** First of all, I need to say something. This is my second book by Melanie Dickerson, and as I didn’t like the first one I read, I had**spoiler alert** First of all, I need to say something. This is my second book by Melanie Dickerson, and as I didn’t like the first one I read, I had very low expectations with this one. However, I decided to give her another chance, as this novel came out sorted [twice] from my to-read jar. And I’m glad I did it. It is such a beautiful book!
In A Spy’s Devotion, we find ourselves in Regency England, and meet headfirst the lovely Julia Grey, our heroine. She’s an unloved orphan, ward to her aunt and uncle, the Wilherns, who took her in when her parents died, leaving her homeless and penniless, so she grew up alongside her cousin Phoebe, who is, by the way, the only person in the family who actually cares for her. Upon first meeting Julia, I thought I wouldn’t like her, as she was so innocent and sweet, and had one or two moments that kept me rolling my eyes, like when she feels guilty because she only smiled to Nicholas Langdon –our hero–, when her cousin Phoebe is so hopelessly “in love” with him, determined to marry him, and Julia has agreed to say everything in her power for Nicholas to pay attention to her, fall in love, and hence, propose. She actually feels guilty way too much, and there were some moments in which I felt a bit tired of her saying so over and over again. But there’s some things I really loved about her. Julia Grey is everything a lady should be during the era. She’s beautiful but modest, unaware of her own charms and beauty, and although she often ends up relegated in favor of her cousin –given her wealth, her social standing, and her many more chances of making a good marriage–, that doesn’t mean the world doesn’t see her blue eyes, her dark hair, and her wonderful talents. I truly loved the fact that Julia definitely has bigger dreams than those of getting engaged to a rich, titled man; she’s romantic in her own way, as she has an amazing talent for music. But as we know, women’s art was to keep them entertained rather than having the chance of turning into their livelihood, and though Julia would have a rightful place as a performer and composer, playing for kings and queens in the courts of Europe, the fact of being a woman has closed all the doors for her, limiting her talents to a few pleasantries when she plays for others to dance, or for herself.
However, she doesn’t go completely unnoticed, and of course, the one who sees all her virtues is Nicholas Langdon, the man Phoebe Wilhern wants to marry desperately. I loved him, utterly and completely, since his first page. He’s kind, loving, honest, and brave, a good man in every possible way. He falls in love with Julia since the first moment he sees her (and she, with him), in a ball, in despite that he notices her efforts to turn his attention to her cousin Phoebe, but he’s unable to marry her; he has no fortune, and neither she does. He’s just a soldier, convalescent after a war injury, in possession of a diary containing coded information about General Wellington, something he must keep away from the traitors’ hands. But he’s assaulted in the street, and the diary is stolen by two men sent by Julia’s uncle. And so begins her brief involvement in espionage, secretly gathering information to pass to Nicholas, to prevent the general’s assassination. I admit I was terrified when her uncle found out about her (though it wasn’t so difficult to connect the dots and discover who was passing his information to the War Office), and when he told her he wanted to marry her off to Edgerton to shut her up, or he would kill her himself, he was truly scary. I hated him, and Edgerton, and I loved Nicholas when he rescued her from him at the ball, without thinking twice that it was the second time he was asking her to dance, and without noticing that he was going to be the talk of the ball. He just thought of her, and the situation she was in, and he did what he had to do. He is a true gentleman.
By the way, I also loved his sister, Leorah Langdon, as a character, and I really hope the next book on this series is about her. She’s definitely an amazing young woman, with the best attitude towards the world she lives in and its rules, always honest, and always true to herself. She’s a great friend to Julia, as she is her polar opposite, and proved to be the best of friends.
There were a few things in this book that I want to mention. First of all, Sarah Peck’s story. Her introduction is too brief as to feel something as a reader when she leaves to become a governess, and although, in the next chapters, Julia warns her about her master’s son’s intentions, she still falls for his charms, and ends up pregnant. Upon knowing that, I knew exactly how her story would continue, and in fact, that’s what happened, actually; there wasn’t much of a surprise for me there. I knew she would go to the Children’s Aid Mission, and eventually, would marry John Wilson. It wasn’t so difficult to guess. But I was happy for her, anyway. And on the other hand, I wish we had known more about Edgerton and Henrietta’s ending. They stubbornly wanted to marry Julia and Nicholas, respectively, and all the sudden they eloped, out of nowhere, and there was no more information about it, even after all he did to have Julia’s hand, and how hateful he was. I thought at least, he would end up arrested. Plus, Henrietta’s appearance is a bit sudden, all we know is that she was Nicholas’ first love, and I think it was silly of Julia to think he could possibly marry her, after everything she and Nicholas went through; not just the espionage, but all those dances they shared, his help and loving care when she was ill with pleurisy, and when she was shot trying to save his life, not to mention all of those lingering looks and brief kisses he managed to sneak onto her hand. After all those moments, in which he proved how much he cared, it truly bothered me that she still thought him capable of doing such a wretched thing, when he told her to meet him in the garden, and she saw him with Henrietta. After all they went through, she really thought he did that on purpose, and I couldn’t believe her. Come on, Julia, you are innocent but not stupid, you can’t think that way at this stage of the game!
He even tells her so: “I would have married you even though I didn’t have a fortune to offer you.”. He truly loved her, we knew that already, and Julia could have guessed it, but she didn’t. She never had the hope that Nicholas loved her back. But I liked her because of her evolution as a character and as a person. She starts the book being a sweet, almost naive girl, but she’s no fool. And along the way, she grows into a more determined woman, knowing that the rules of society don’t always match the ones in her heart, and that she needs to be honest with him about her feelings, finally giving him the letter she had poured her heart into.
“She marveled at what she had done. The old Julia would have been lightheaded and faint at the thought of writing such a letter, of flouting society’s rules and laying bare her heart. And though he may reject her love, she still did not regret that she had told him. He was a respectable man who would not take advantage of her, and she saw nothing wrong with him being so straightforward, even if society strictly forbade such declarations from a woman.”
She evolves as a human being, knowing that she needs to break society’s rules to stay true to herself. Nicholas and Julia love each other mostly because they’ve seen each other at their worst, and they still want to be together. Maybe they are a bit too flawless as characters, almost with no faults, but that doesn’t take away the beauty of their story. They faced losing each other to marriage to someone else, and even to death (Julia twice, no less), and it was enough to see there was no way they could be happy without each other.
The ending was beautiful, and it left me with a big smile on my face. It wasn’t like I doubted they would end up together, but it was utterly beautiful the way he ran after her when she left the house where she worked as a governess, and saved no kisses, when they finally acknowledged their feelings. Something I truly value is the fact that it wasn’t a happy ending for everyone; not everything ended up perfectly. Julia’s relationship with Phoebe ends up in suspense, as it cannot be what it was again, not after she worked against her father, and he’s a fugitive, wanted for treason. Phoebe never heard Julia’s advices about the open display of her feelings, and she didn’t change in that aspect, but in the end, she was cured of her obsession with Nicholas, and married Daniel Dinklage instead. Their relationship ends up broken, but Julia doesn’t regret she helped her country, if briefly. But, among all the nonsense Phoebe talks, I agree with her when she tells Julia she needs to stop being so cautious and let herself flirt a bit, without feeling so guilty about it. She means no harm, after all, but she mistakes being nice with being flirtatious, and that kept me rolling my eyes from time to time. Come on, Julia!
Still, I’m definitely going to read the rest of the books in this series, it was a nice surprise from this author. I can’t wait for the next one!
**spoiler alert** It could be my least favorite book by this author. It’s impossible not to notice that she has written novels that are a lot better t**spoiler alert** It could be my least favorite book by this author. It’s impossible not to notice that she has written novels that are a lot better than this one, and although I liked it, and Julie Klassen is an excellent narrator, it didn’t grab me or kept me reading late at night, unlike her other books. The impeccable research and the amazing details make up for an enjoyable read, but The Dancing Master isn’t a five stars book, and I’ll tell you why.
Dancing is, hands down, my favorite part in every piece of historical fiction. Nothing is more exciting for me than a ballroom scene, with all the lights, the beauty, the dresses, the jewels, the music, and of course, the dancing that always brings two people closer to fall in love, when something as little as a look, a mere touch of the hands, can be deep and beautiful, and speak volumes. *sigh* Alec Valcourt, the hero in this story, is a dancing and fencing master –a profession that runs in the family–, who comes to Beaworthy with her mother and sister, as an attempt to escape a shameful scandal that forced them to sell their academy in London, and move in with their uncle to start over. But the problem is that, of all the villages in England, they moved to the only one where he can’t practice his profession, because dancing has been forbidden for two decades by an unwritten law established by Lady Amelia Midwinter, following a tragedy involving a dancing master. That doesn’t mean there’s no people interested in dancing, but everyone is too scared of Lady Amelia as to disobey her. And here I get a few points to discuss.
Alec needs to work to support her mother and sister, but no one wants to hire him as dancing master, because of the prohibition. Then Lady Amelia herself hires him, as a clerk, only to prevent him from teaching dancing lessons, but he’s still in need of extra funds, and upon befriending the Allens, he learns that they, besides fencing lessons, would like some private tutoring in dancing, in despite of everything, but Alec doubts, because he doesn’t want to risk his job at Buckleigh Manor. And here it is when Lady Allen says: “Perhaps if I spoke to Lady Amelia, explained that we only want private lessons in our own home, not a public dance. Could she really object?” That line had me rolling my eyes, and l literally yelled at my book “She doesn’t need to know!”. I mean, she forbade dancing, but is she also the owner of everyone’s freedom? Why telling her in the first place? After the end of his working hours in the service of Lady Amelia, she can’t keep telling him what to do, or at least she shouldn’t.
Can we talk about the ban on dancing? In Beaworthy, everyone is scared even at the very mention of the word “dancing”, but nothing, or no one, ever tells me which are the terrible consequences of breaking the [unwritten] law, like if Amelia is some sort of witch or mind reader that can appear summoned by that word, and turn them all into toads if they dared to dance on her watch. Later on, we find out that it has to do with the duel between Amelia’s brother and her former dancing master, John Desmond, to defend her sister Anne’s honor, who was pregnant at the time and pointed at Desmond as the father of her child. As Graham Buckleigh died in the duel, Amelia, in her grief, forbade everything related to dancing masters, to prevent anything like that from happening again. And I, honestly, couldn’t take that with the seriousness it was supposed to have. During the entire book, Amelia complains about Julia being a rebel, always trying to get her way, and having this “unladylike” attitudes, but, how could she expect her daughter to be anything else, if she was raised by one of the biggest brats I’ve ever read? I mean, I understand that Amelia resents everything related to dancing in general, but, why on Earth that meant that every single person in Beaworthy had to stop with their traditions because of it? It’s ok if you don’t dance, but speak for yourself, lock yourself at home if you want to, and don’t attend another ball in your life, but you can’t force everyone else to share that decision. That attitude of “I won’t dance ever again, so no one else can do it either” pissed me off! She made an entire village pay the price of her broken heart, she made her pain everyone’s pain, and then complains about her daughter being a brat! Come on!
But, putting that aside, I actually liked how Lady Amelia is written, as a character that it is both strong and fragile. Her tyrannical stance hides her heartbreak, because she was in love with the man that killed his brother and supposedly was his sister’s lover, and after that, she entered a loveless marriage with a man who didn’t want her, or Julia, knowing that he was raising a child not his own. She always lived ruled by duty, and that doesn’t make her an especially sweet character. Amelia always wanted the best for her daughter and I get it, but her chosen method definitely isn’t the way to proceed, because it’s in human nature to go for that thing that is forbidden. The sterner the prohibition, the bigger the curiosity and the wish to rebel will be. As for Julia Midwinter, Lady Amelia’s daughter/niece, she isn’t the expected heroine you can read in other books by Julie Klassen. I didn’t fully like her. She’s that girl that normally opposes the sensible, levelheaded, and demure protagonist, being a flirt and a rebel. Although I considered her very human, given that, even though a main character has to be likeable, the truth is that not every person out there is likeable. People in real life are selfish, stubborn, and changeable, and very rarely we come across a paragon of virtues. But that doesn’t mean that I liked Julia through and through. She is insufferable at times, always wanting to rebel against her mother’s despotic behavior, and flirting with men in order to catch a husband to get her out of that stifling household she lives on. But, even though she proves herself capable of hitting the Wilcox brothers with her whip and I like that attitude of “you messed with the wrong lady”, she doesn’t do anything of the sort again. Pity, because that could have led to really funny scenes.
The story revolves more around Julia trying to discover her true parents, after discovering that Lady Amelia isn’t her mother, but her aunt, than around the love story, unlike other books by Julie Klassen. Which isn’t wrong, but I felt that the romance had a lot of potential and wasn’t fully exploited. It’s dancing, after all! One of the best forms of deep touch and romance in historical fiction! I was definitely expecting more. Alec and Julia’s relationship is basically physical, mostly at first, and I just couldn’t buy that instant attraction Alec feels towards her in church the first time he sees her and notices her beauty. After that she proves to be the kind of flirt for which Alec’s family’s reputation was ruined, asking for private dancing lessons she uses to get closer to him than it is appropriate, so he tries to put distance between them. There’s pretty much no reason for their attraction. When they finally kiss, it is truly sigh-worthy, passionate, and not at all what Julia was expecting as she flirted with him, but… they never kiss again. It was so disappointing! In the the epilogue, Julia says that they are engaged to be married, but that kiss, by the middle of the book, was the deepest interaction they had, sharing only a few dances after it, without a truly heartfelt moment before the ending with only the two of them, save for the scenes in the bell tower and in the graveyard, but they barely talk about themselves and their feelings, there’s almost no chemistry between them... And I was looking forward to it. They always struggle to keep their distance, so nothing really allowed me to say, “yes, this two are made for each other, they have to get married”. It’s the first couple written by Julie Klassen that didn’t have me rooting for them. This story is more about Julia’s growing up and finding herself than romance, and honestly, I wanted the romance, especially after having a man like Alec Valcourt, a true gentleman, as protagonist, and the promise of dancing in the title.
The plot around Julia’s real parents is engaging, and I was truly eager to find out who her father was. Julia finally was content knowing that she had been loved by her parents, but that’s all, her life doesn’t really change after her conversation with Lt. Tremelling. Honestly, the mystery and its resolution wasn’t so engaging as the mysteries Julie Klassen wrote in her other novels, that are gripping and you just need to keep reading to find the answers. There’s a reason why this book took me longer to finish than the others. Again, I’m not saying that I didn’t like this book, but I couldn’t help noticing a few things that contribute it to make it my least favorite by Julie Klassen. First of all, Alec and Julia’s riding scene, Alec’s horse breaks his legs trying to jump a wall, and then, as they can’t save him, Barlow shoots him. Besides being sad, it felt useless, because nothings comes from it, except Alec’s minor injuries, and another scolding for Julia from her mother. I felt that scene could have been cut from the book and nothing would have changed.
After that, already by the end of the book, some things fell a bit flat, when I really wanted more development on them. Like Alec’s father, after that big scandal that drew the plot in the first place. The man just comes back, saying that God’s grace saved him, regains his wife’s love, and then every conflict gets solved. And how…? There was no reunion scene, he just comes back redeemed to close that part of the story, and that’s it, there’s nothing else. As for the other love stories, at least we are told that Walter Allen and Tess Thorne started courting, and eventually they would get married, but what about James and Aurora? I really, really liked that pairing, and I was hoping for a little romance between them after the big finale. But nothing happens, except that James doesn’t make a move to try to court her because she’s still very young, which speaks of a gentleman, but of boredom for me as a reader. After all, we get to know that Uncle Ramsay and Mrs. Tickle got married, when they barely appeared a few times in the entire book, but there’s almost nothing about James and Aurora, that have more page time than them. I know that they aren’t the focus of the story, but I’m just saying that I would have liked a happy ending for them.
Oh, and Amelia and John Desmond! I utterly loved John, he was everything a man should be at the time, a true gentleman ruled by his honor and sense of duty, and any woman he loved would be very lucky. Even though he and Amelia fell in love, and even twenty years later they still loved each other, it disappointed me that they didn’t end up together. After such a drama, it’s not enough for me to read that he spends a lot of time “admiring a certain woman’s auburn hair and dainty figure, her quiet smile and fine eyes”. Seriously, that’s all we get? I wanted something more! Amelia forgave him, yes, but it would have been great if they actually had gotten married, taking that second chance to be together after all those things that delayed it, finally leaving the past behind and accepting the grace bestowed upon them. It was sweet, yes, but definitely scarce.
Finally, not too much to add, except that, as always, Julie Klassen’s research shines on its own. She doesn’t start writing a book without a good foundation, and this one isn’t the exception. However, I feel like it could have been a lot better, that there was a lot of potential in the topics she chose, and it wasn’t exploited. From the books by her I’ve read so far, this one is my least favorite, though it doesn’t mean it sucks. Julie Klassen is a good author, and all her books are good. Consider this the weakest among the great ones, that are all of them. Of course, I’ll continue reading! As I said before, I won’t stop until I read each book by this author, as she is one of my favorites, and one of the most talented I’ve ever read!