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Britta is the illegitimate daughter of the king’s bounty hunter. Cohen is the king’s bounty hunter’s apprentice. The two grew up together training under her father and share a special bond until he abandons her. When her father is murdered her life implodes and she’s forced to race around the neighboring kingdom to find his murderer. When she uncovers a plot against the king of Malam will she be too late to finish her father’s work?
Everything about this book is clumsy. For a debuting author its pretty good, but that doesn’t excuse all the problems that the story tries to hold together. The inconsistencies really jerked me around and I’d go from feeling the book was pretty decent to feeling like it was written for a middle grader. 3 stars is probably too high of a rating but I really felt like the premise was solid. Also if more thought had been put into thinking the way the characters (Britta, Cohen and her father specifically) thought better plot and reactions could have been developed improving the quality of the book while not changing the writing.
I wanted to like Britta. I loved her back history training with her father as a tracker. The concept is great… Her killing the elk in the beginning was a great start but support for this trained tracker quickly faded the farther into the book we went. The problem is we were told she was an excellent tracker and she did kill an animal but after that the tracking was used to point out her lacking not her skill. I liked her ability to read the truth too, and was intrigued how it would be linked to the animals’ dying ability… but 16% into the book and I knew what the ending would be. It was obvious how her truth ability could NOT be relied on as a be all to end all. As a tracker of criminals her father would have trained her to understand the deficiencies in her abilities, including her truth skill. Britta, the character we followed through this story, did not ACT like the girl we were told she was. Compounded by these inconsistencies was her whining about Cohen. I know 14 and 15 year olds may act like this about a boy, but this is supposed to be a girl raised by a man to think about what signs on the ground are telling her. She has to be able to pull back and reason things out based on the evidence. She should have seen that Cohen liked her. She should have confronted him and in lieu of him her father. So many, many things don’t add up with Britta.
The writing is smooth enough that depending on what annoys you about YA and fantasy tropes this may be easy to read past or hard. For me it was middling, so I gave the book a middling grade. The world building was perhaps the most intriguing thing about the book to me. I liked the idea of the channelers and the spiriter, again solid premise. I kept reading hoping that more definitive things would be revealed about this. It actually revealed another major problem with the book. Her father. You know your daughter can sense truth and feels the death of animals keenly, yet you leave her in the dark about her abilities and train her to hunt. If she hunts animals she’ll go to prison and if she gets too close to the king and company she may be revealed as a channeler… just what did her father expect her to do for a livelihood? He KNEW she was considered illegitimate… he knew that meant NO ONE would marry her… he SENT AWAY the one boy he’d allowed to get close to her who may be able to support her… did her father even love her? Did he give one thought to her future at all? If she was trained she could have hid her abilities. If she knew about her grandmother she could have had a place to go if something happened to him (and he knew one day an enemy of the king would kill him and it could happen at any time!) If she had Cohen he could trust the boy he trained to provide whatever she needs. NONE of her father’s decisions made a lick of sense. And they directly conflicted with the world that was built by the author.
Cohen was a joke. He made less sense than the father! Almost every decision he made was the wrong choice yet I’m supposed to believe he was trained by the best bounty hunter in the kingdom? Captain Omar was more believable as a friend and contemporary of her father than Cohen! For example:*. And I’m not sure why Britta loved him? Show us! Yes, he cared for you at some point but then he abandoned you… And talk about forgiving fast- this is turbo speed!:
“The angst in his voice clears away the last remnants of my anger. Both the new anger at finding out he’d kept my heritage a secret, and the old anger at his abandonment that I hadn’t even realized I’d been holding on to.”
The thing is the ending was so obvious that all this is moot. I really loved Enat and knew about that secret since we met her, the channeler abilities had been emphasized as too rare. Her mother’s death was not well developed and felt muddy. And Britta’s conclusions about why it was kept a secret from her were nonsensical… These weren’t twists they were clumsy conclusions that we labored to get to and gave us an even worse end, end.**
Enat wasn’t the only great character… I think Leif and Captain Omar made the beginning bearable. If you are going to have boring plot then give us characters we want to follow! Make them consistent even if your writing isn’t… There is so much potential here… I would even read the next book in the hopes that better development comes into play…
BOTTOM LINE: Perfect for YA fantasy trope lovers!
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
WARNING, Spoilers below:
*After her father’s death, Cohen waited knowing no one in the village would help her, somehow learned she was sent after him and laid a trail for her to follow… how convoluted! Why didn’t he just go to Britta during the mourning period when even the king’s men didn’t come and take possession of his land? He knew she had no one and knew about her channeler ability. He knew her father kept her in the dark and knew she loved him.
**The end, end is when she comes to be attracted to the king cause she saved him and not attracted to Cohen because he had given back her life force… not good that the only real twist makes the whole previous book we read that centered on her love of Cohen useless! Does she even know what love is? Her father didn’t seem to love her much!