Thursday, October 8, 2020

Nicola Cameron - Empress of Storms

A king who must offer himself as royal consort to fulfill a treaty. A young queen and mage, unexpectedly married to the man she's loved since childhood. Two countries, divided by geography and united by a political marriage, are poised on the brink of a golden age. But will vicious magic and unexpected betrayal tear both the royal couple and their kingdoms apart?
When King Matthias of Ypres has to fulfill a treaty and provide a royal consort for young Queen Danaë of Hellas, the only royal available for marriage is ... him. Can he risk letting a blue-haired witch queen into his heart?
From political necessity, Queen Danaë finds herself marrying the man she secretly loves. Now she must win the heart of a king, prove herself as a mage, and defeat the enemies that threaten them both. 

Comment: I had this book in the TBR pile for some time but I can't remember why... I probably got it as a freebie at some point and now that I have read it, I assume it was in the pile because it featured a sort of May/December relationship in a fantasy world so I expected a path of discovery for both protagonists while they dealt with some magical issues or something...

In this book we meet two royals who need to marry each other so they consolidate their two countries as trading partners as well as allies. The idea was for the young queen Danae to marry Luka, the son of king Matthias but certain events have made it impossible and now that Danae is of age, a widowed Matthias himself needs to marry her to honor a treaty their countries had established a long time ago.

However, among the magical issues taking place in this world, there is also the subject of Luka's disappearance right after his mother died. What happened to him and why isn't he there to fulfill his part of the treaty? As the unlikely pair marries, will Danae and Matthias have enough magic ad cleverness between them to find the answers to what is happening as well as to see if their marriage can be a solid one?

This is the first book I try by this author. I saw the GR rating average for it wasn't too high and I dreaded why most readers would not have given this a higher grade but now I think I can understand: the pace is obviously too quick for the sort of emotional connection being established. Besides, the world building is quite detailed but the progress of the plot doesn't seem to match it, which means that, in my opinion and assuming other readers might have agreed, the author has too many ideas which aren't developed in the right pace, making the story a little superficial.

Of course this is just an opinion, others might see it differently. I do think the story has a good base and elements to make it work but the author's choices to develop things were a little too convenient. Again, as I felt in regards to many other books I read, often I feel authors could gain a lot more if they decided on a specific path instead of trying to mix so many things. This story could have magic and all that but if the focus was the romance, there were many details that could have been used to make it more emotional, more conflict, more focus on the little things (like the age gap, the treaty situation forcing their hands, their emotional status while accepting a new person in their life, etc.). Or the focus could be about what happened to Luka and the mystery surrounding the magical elements of this world with the romance a secondary thing. A good balance could have made the difference, I think.

By making Danae and Matthias accept one another so easily, the author wasted right then a good element to propel conflict, development, evolution in terms of what the characters could accomplish with time. Added a plot that takes such a short time to be solved (there are magical reasons in play too, if one could think of an excuse), it made me think this was a bit superficial, as if there weren't enough details to add strength to the characters' actions. Perhaps it was a matter of limiting a page count but I've finished the novel thinking there were too many things included and not enough emotional connection binding them into a solid work.

Danae is a very mature character for 25 - again, the world building could explain characters' behavior) but she's way too confident (ok, empowerment for women but where's he conflict then) in everything and that made her look a bit too perfect. Perhaps a bit more self doubt on whether Mathias might fall for her or something? Matthias is a good enough hero, he does have doubts but he so easily falls for Danae that their relationship offered no conflict, no challenge.

As for plot, sudden villains and complicated secrets from Luka's past, which made me look at new information as if being over the top, suddenly made the final part of the book as something filled with things to make the story feel fuller and more complex when, to me, it was the opposite. I felt the author lost the good ideas into too many details and some were quite unnecessary.

This said, this was a story with interesting elements but the execution, to me, was not as well accomplished.

Grade: 5/10

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