***I received a free copy of this book from Curiosity Quills Press in exchange for my unbiased review. The opinions stated are solely my own. ***
The monsters and magical creatures from fairytales live in fear. Termed “Unnaturals,” they are hunted by the Animus, a group descended from the original knights in shining armor from the Golden Age of Fairytales. Despite the fact the last fairytale ended a hundred years ago, the Unnaturals (aka Cryptids) continue to be hunted down and killed. Enyo was once a knight of the Animus and is now running from that past. When she meets Marek, a clumsy traveller who dreams of independence and uprising for his kind, she finds a way to repay a blood-debt from long ago. But a war is brewing, and instead of delivering Marek to a safe place for Unnaturals to live, the two find themselves caught in a conflict that began centuries earlier.
This book was nothing like I expected, and I was so impressed with the places Bennett went. The way Bennett twisted the fairy tales was unexpected and also fascinating. Her exploration on the origin of fairy tales was surprisingly dark but at the same time provided a fresh twist in a very saturated genre. I looked forward to her snippets of these twisted fairy tales at the beginning of each chapter.
“Enyo was many things, but she wasn’t a coward, and she would find a way to live with what she had done.”
The book insightfully explores the challenges in acceptance and forgiveness of yourself for past wrongs. Granted, Enyo’s past is extreme compared to the modern readers. However, the way Bennett explored these concepts was beautiful and deeply felt.
“I don’t want to die like this! I wanted to do something statue-worthy first!” - Kian
Bennett also pens a great mix of characters. They are unique, three-dimensional, and have some fun dynamics with each other. I appreciated the amount of kick-ass females in the storyline too. A woman wielding an axe (who’s not a dwarf) as her weapon of choice? That was pretty special. Bennett also has a great sense of humor that comes out through her characters’ relationships, which was quite enjoyable.
“I have unimaginable power, and not much imagination.” - Marek
The main flaw I saw in the narrative was that important moments were glossed, and suddenly characters seemed to know something that wasn’t shared with them during the narrative.
(regarding the paragraph above) For instance, was Gespenst’s relationship to Enyo revealed? There is a mention at the end of theories why Enyo’s mother left. Does that mean he’s the father? It seemed obvious but it’s never stated. While this hinting at realities is a fine way to narrate, having a character accept certain facts without those facts being presented to the reader -- that was the thing missing. Another ‘glossed moment’ centered on Marek finding out about being the offspring of dragons. I don’t remember him ever being told; all we were given were Enyo’s memories. Additionally, transitions were scant. One moment, Marek is just a clumsy guy with a starry-eyed outlook on the resistance, the next he’s controlling his underdeveloped powers like a Jedi master. A second example of this is when in one chapter, the characters were at someone's house and in the subsequent chapter, the characters are suddenly taking care of Cryptids on the verge of death after a battle on the road.
The author was great at emotional character exploration, but the physical and magical stuff were underexplored. Sometimes it felt like important things happened behind the scenes and readers were tossed into an action scene instead. If Bennett could have been slightly less vague when writing significant magical moments, I would have enjoyed this book that much more.
“It will bring you what you long for, but sometimes it is a terrible thing to get what you want.” - Ryder
Overall, this is a very intriguing story with great characters and dialogue. The world these characters live in is fascinating. I think it’s a good read with a unique perspective on the origin of fairytales and how those stories are remembered (what’s fact versus what’s fiction). Despite the flaws mentioned above, I would pick up another book by this author. S.E. Bennett has a wonderful imagination.
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In all honesty, I've really enjoyed everything I've read from this publisher. Learn more about Curiosity Quills and their fantastic books at: https://curiosityquills.com/books/
"Descendants of Avalon"
Released via Inklings Publishing
("The Forgotten" volume 2)
Reviewed and awarded the
2016 Indie Editor's Choice
by the Historical Novel Society.
Long listed for the Historical Novel Society 2017 Indie Award.
Goodreads profile at: https://www.goodreads.com/JElse