This was my most anticipated release of May 2017. I read The Bird And The Sword about a year ago, and it absolutely blew me away with its beauty. I adored every page of it, so I was expecting something just as epic from the second installment (side note, they are both standalone's, it's not really a series, but more of an expansion of the world with some old and new characters). Maybe my expectations were too high? Because sadly I didn't enjoy this one as much as I thought I would.
The writing was beyond beautiful as always. Amy Harmon has such a way with words. I also enjoyed the pacing, and the occasional humor - it was great. So why wasn't I blown away?
!Very minor spoilers ahead!
Sasha. I could not get into liking her. It is partly my fault, because I kept comparing her to Lark. Because for me, Lark is as perfect a heroine as you can get. I adored Lark and everything about her. And Sasha, well Sasha was a complete opposite of Lark. Where Lark was stubborn and strong willed, Sasha was complacent and bland. Lark was a leader, and Sasha was very much a follower. I just couldn't get on board with a female lead who was so submissive, so clingy and so eager to serve a man.
'She reminds me of our Lady Queen,' Jerick mused, ignoring him.
'She looks nothing like the Queen.' Queen Lark was diminutive, a waif of a woman with silver eyes, soft brown hair, and an iron will.'
Sasha looked fierce and her hair burned with fire, while Lark was barely noticeable, but power flown out of her. I thought it was quite clever to have them contradict each other so strongly in looks and in their character.
Then I told myself that I should just let Lark go, and just try to give Sasha a chance. And I did, but by that time Sasha got her memories back, and became somebody completely different, somebody distant. So I never got into Sasha's character after all. Even though she had dimension to her, while being humble and submissive she was still royal and proud. But her mild demeanor and bendable nature were a little too prominent (for my taste).
Kjell remained his old stubborn and angry self.
'He didn't know what to say. Words had never been his weapons or his way. He tripped over them and spoke in anger, when he spoke at all. Anger was comfortable to him.'
'I am Kjell of Jeru. Bloody move so we can pass.' - classic Kjell.
Which was a relief. I enjoyed all of his struggles - it was very sad, but in some moments it was also pretty funny. I also appreciated that Kjell's love for his brother and the queen never wavered, and was constantly brought up to attention. It made for nice reminiscing of the first book.
'Her name was Koorah. She was a servant in my father's castle. She died at my birth. ' In three simple sentences he'd told her everything he knew about his mother.Name, occupation, death. nothing more. '
His ancestry was a nice twist, although at the end of it all I felt like it got kind of discarded. At one moment he was so into finding about his past and who he was - and then he got the diaries. But in the next moment the diaries were forgotten and all Kjell cared about was his lady-love.
'You look good, brother,' Lark said to Kjell, her eyes affectionate, her voice kind.' We've missed you.'
'He looks like great, dusty, bristling bear,' Tiras laughed. 'And yes, we've missed you. Now tell us about the girl.'
I literally fan-girled when my favorite couple made a cameo appearance. Granted they were barely shells of their former selves (there was no passion between them, no chemistry), but that is expected, for this story was not about them, and they were barely visitors.
I only wish that there was more of Lark's daughter.
I liked the city of Caarn and their gifts too.
'We are not warriors in Caarn,' Sasha said diplomatically, covering the awkward question with a calm reply. 'The people of Caarn are growers. Planters. Their gifts are of the earth, not of the body.'
But the king of Caarn, was basically a joke.
Here is my most favorite passage in the whole book.
'No trees were cut down in Caarn. The tree had to die naturally before the wood was gathered. The people believed the trees gave freely of their branches and their leaves, their nuts and their needles in exchange for a long life.'
Romance was beautifully written as usual, but I wasn't really into it. Their love-story seemed too forced - they met, traveled together, and then somehow they were so in love. As oppose to Lark and Tiras whose love formed and grew eventually, and it was beautiful. Here I go comparing the two again, I guess I just can't help it.
But I think it was the way everything played out that bugged me the most. Everything was way too easy. They defeated the Volgar, and lady Firi wasn't a scary treat. Not to me at least (she had the potential though, it just didn't play out). And then the king dies so conveniently. And then - happy ending. Maybe I wanted something tragic, something sad and different. I don't know. But it felt very much like the ending of The Bird and The Sword - everything turned out good in the end, happy couple and a child. Which reminds me, what is up with naming children the same names as other characters. I think it's the most ridiculous thing. It's the Albus-Severus crap all over again.
There was also not enough evil in this book. And by evil I mean an enemy.
Volgar were a distant treat that was always talked about but they never actually showed up till about 90 percent into the book. And these Volgar weren't the mind controlled beasts as they were in the first book. They were just starved remains of dying monsters. I didn't feel like they were enough of a treat.
And lady of Firi was a looming treat. Following them, always watching, always there but never actually doing much damage.
The whole time I kept waiting for something to happen, but it felt like nothing really did. Nothing big at least.
This was my fourth book by Amy Harmon, and while I love all the ones I read dearly (well except this one, I liked it, I just didn't love it) I see the same pattern of plot in all of the books. There's always a journey of some sorts, a hardship, a heartbreak, then a happy ending and an offspring.
I love happy endings, I do, but they don't all have to be that happy.
I think I hyped this book a little too much for myself. And I couldn't stop comparing it to the Bird and the Sword, which was a big mistake - because this is a completely different book. I am very happy that Kjell got a happy ending though. Even if it wasn't in Jeru. Even if maybe this wasn't the way I hoped it would be.
If you never read anything by Amy Harmon I would recommend The Book and The Sword (a fantasy romance) and From Sand and Ash (a historical-fiction romance). Those two are absolutely fantastic - my forever favorites.