Thursday, February 24, 2022

Grace Draven - The Undying King

The stories are told in whispers, even after so long: of a man whose fair rule soured when he attained eternal youth. Imprisoned by a sorceress wife in a city out of time and place, he has passed into legend. Few believe in him, and fewer would set their hopes on his mercy. But Imogen has no choice. To break the curse that's isolated her since birth, she'll find the Undying King—and answer his secrets with her own...

Comment: The books by this author all have interesting blurbs and premises and this was no exception, thus why I added it to my TBR.

In this fantasy world, Imogen, a young woman lives with her mother in a secluded spot for they are able to perform witchcraft and the young woman is cursed, everyone she touches dies. Despite this and their loneliness, they are companions to one another but as the story begins, the mother is dying and before that happens, she tells Imogen about a key given to her by the King of Tineroth, whom she helped years ago. She says he owes her a boon and Imogen should use the key to ask for his help in removing her curse. Since she has no strings to the land, Imogen goes on searching for this king, even though tales about him have always been told as if it was a fairy tale but suddenly, she does find the entrance to this mythical kingdom and she does meet the king. Could it be her fate will finally change?

This is a novella, apparently not linked to any of the worlds in the other series I've read by the author. This is a good way to learn about the author's style for something shorter is obviously quicker to read. At first I though this might not matter since I knew how able the author really is, but I must say I finished the story with some disappointment because the novella didn't seem to be enough to develop all the necessary elements introduced.

This is fantasy so a lot of magical and strange elements are part of the story but I felt some weren't as well explained because of the lack of pages. The author had to summarize a lot and while the plot itself is understandable and points out all the necessary things for the structure to hold on (the basic introduction, development and conclusion can be identified) but for me everything was a little superficial.

Imogen is a sweet heroine but I didn't really feel she was special besides her curse. We are told how that came to be and it was actually a nice twist but considering how she was brought up and the fact the story is focused on how Imogen gets along with the king, the subject wasn't explored as much and in the end I felt it was just another nice element and not the big deal it was meant to be.

The king is obviously a lot more interesting, he is thought as someone irresponsible and greedy who wanted immortality more than he cared for his kingdom, losing his humanity, which means he isn't a simple hero trapped in an impossible situation. Still, we are told this happened centuries ago and he is alive but in a cursed reality, where not many can see his kingdom nor himself. Suddenly, Imogen shows up and by touching her, he starts feeling like a human again and we learn that this will happen gradually, so he might remove her curse by allowing it to kill him instead. However, this doesn't happen very quickly and while they spend time together, we see them bond over their problems and attraction.

As the story evolves, they seem to be hidden in their own reality which I assume works to create this feel they are isolated and the only solution might be them falling in love. I think this is rather obvious to be the goal and it's not so different from one or two other of the author's books I've read. The difference to them - and to other fantasy books out there - is that their personalities are well depicted but they don't really evolve now. All the things happening between them are just "waking up" feelings because not only are they too focused on their issues but they don't interact with others, there's no development int he world around believable it is if the experience is so self centered?

The big antagonism comes from a very badly and lacking any importance and development whatsoever regarding a neighbor real kingdom of the old Tineroth, whose prince wants control and power or something and for that he claims that by marrying Imogen, whom we discover has an aristocratic background (of course), he will achieve this goal and enforces a dark magician to find her. This part of the plot is really without depth and easily forgettable. I think it was the way used to convey urgency in separating the king and Imogen so they both realize their feelings are stronger than they thought and by forcing the end of the story.

The end is...rushed and not as significant as it might have been done, I think. Some details might seem enough and they do give the reader information about what happened and what will be the fate of the couple, but without more development on the world and on their lives, everything felt a little under done.
Grade: 6/10

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