Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you’re having a wonderful day filled with love, whether it’s a significant other, your fabulous friends, or your family – celebrate and share love with everyone today is my view! I meant to post this review last week, but published ‘The Hazel Wood’ review instead. Plus, the pictures I took for this one kind of felt more on theme with Valentine’s Day, hence the post today!
First off, how insanely beautiful is this cover? Jeeeeeesus. I’ll be honest, as much as I am a ‘don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover’ girl, the cover was what attracted me to this book. It’s by the incredible Charlie Bowater. That, and the fact this book is described as like A Court of Thorns and Roses. And it has fae. I mean, really, what more could I want? This book seemed like a dream for me. So as you can probably gather, I was super excited about this book. I deliberated over buying it for ages, before finally adding it to my Christmas list in the hope that my parents would buy it. Thankfully they did. Thaaaaanks!
I wanted, so desperately, to love this book. I wanted to love it as much as I adored ‘A Court of Mist and Fury’, and that’s a lot – it appeared in our wedding, for God’s sake… Now, this isn’t to say that I didn’t like it. I did. I liked it a lot actually. I just didn’t love it. I devoured it within about 4-5 days and, once I got properly engrossed about halfway through, I was reading it avidly, just as I had hoped I would. I just didn’t find it as un-putdownable as I had imagined. That isn’t to say that this is in any way Margaret Rogerson’s fault. I fully blame myself here – this was one of those books that I had built up so much in my head, that when it didn’t grab me and enthral me straight off the bat, I was almost disappointed. Almost.
I originally loved that this is a standalone. It meant that going in, I knew that the end was just that – the end. I wasn’t going to reach the end and find a half-told story, one that could have been wrapped up in 350 pages, but was instead dragged out to three novels and several novellas (no shade here, it’s just quite refreshing to have a standalone – I love those series and all their novellas!). What I would say, however, is that there were certain aspects that dragged, and certain parts that went too fast. I felt that the main plot could have become clearer much quicker. It didn’t need to be a “surprise” – it needed to be evident. But I really enjoyed the romance between the two characters, loved the secrecy of Isobel’s name, and even enjoyed Rook’s arrogance and his love for her. I’m a sucker for a romance and this one got to me. Not quite to the same levels as Rhysand in A Court of Mist and Fury, but I liked Rook all the same, finding myself intrigued by his charms and mysteries. And his obvious love for Isobel? The fact that she could see it but simply didn’t know what to do? Adored it. I’m not even sorry. Yes, it was a speedy, blink and she’s fallen head over heels in love with him romance, but I feel like this book owned that fact. It didn’t shy away from it. Hell, Isobel even admits that she’s fallen for him quickly. I loved the imagery of the environment. The descriptions of the lush forests, or terrifying woods, filled me with wonder. They reminded me of Lord of the Rings, but the films, where you can see the beauty of the surrounding nature in all it’s glory. I wanted to know more about the world we were immersed in – why is it called Whimsy, wanted to know more about Crafts, the different courts… I think that’s why, despite my earlier ravings about it being a standalone novel, I’m also sad. There’s so much more I want to learn, to explore within this realm.
I liked Rook – more than I thought I would, actually – and I didn’t hate Isobel. I didn’t love her either, didn’t necessarily connect with her properly, but I still enjoyed her story and her character arc. Could they both have been explored more? Probably. But I found them interesting and likeable all the same. Isobel’s ability to paint was an interesting one, although I can understand why this also draws comparisons to ACOTAR. It would have made the book entirely different, obviously, but I almost wish it had been a different Craft, writing perhaps. Rook, was an intriguing character, full of emotions, but trying, all the same, to keep them hidden away, until he can’t any longer. I liked that about him. I liked his eventual openness about his love for Rook, and I enjoyed his back story. I wish (another wish…) we’d found out more about his court though. Looking back now, I feel like it was the thing that would have taught me more about his character.
The villain, the Alder King, could have been better, and I feel like there wasn’t enough actual build up to his villainy. He reminded me of the villain in Sara Raasch’s Snow Like Ashes series, but just not quite as effective. Perhaps another downfall to this being a standalone. I found myself, despite it all, liking Gladfly too. His flamboyance and love for the material endeared him to me. What can I say… This book was full of surprises.
All in all, the phrase ‘never judge a book by it’s cover’ could have come true in this instance. I spent the first quarter feeling a little underwhelmed, worried that this was going to be a severe disappointment. In reality, it wasn’t. I really enjoyed reading it, even affording it four out of five stars. Yes, there were flaws, issues that I wish could have been resolved to really make the book as perfect and wonderful as it deserved to be, but sadly, it was not to be. I’d still recommend it, especially to Sarah J Maas fans, but don’t be blinded by the beauty of the cover. Look a little deeper – you’ll still be pleased with what you find, but perhaps not quite as almost disappointed as I was.