*I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*
Series: Twelve Baronies
Release Date: December 25th 2014 (eBook) January 14th 2015 (paperback)
When a stranger tells her she’s a mage, Ailith is intrigued but she’s also afraid. Magic is heresy, and heresy means death under the Temple Law. Even literacy is suspect in a girl of her background, and her sister’s impending wedding only serves as a reminder that she should be focusing on her future. Then a local priest asks her to rescue his son, and she starts to wonder if her talents could be a blessing, after all.
The Lord Baron of Watersmeet, Leofwin isn’t accustomed to welcoming uninvited visitors. A commoner turning up at his gates should be no more than a minor footnote to his day, but something about Ailith catches his attention. Alchemy can be lonely work and an apprentice might be just what he needs.
As their lessons grow into shared experiments, Leofwin wonders if he might even trust her with his greatest challenge. But Ailith can’t forget why she came to the castle.
(Warning: spoilers ahead)
This is the first novel of the Twelve Baronies. The upcoming sequels (although not promised to make twelve in all) will not follow on from the first but be self contained stories, set in the same world. I really love the idea of this and would be interested to see what came next in the series.
I found the story a little slow to begin with, but not necessarily in a bad way: I enjoyed the way the story and world were set up, with various things established, such as the religion and rules of this fantasy world. I’ll admit to stumbling on the first page when reading about Ailith and her twin sister Aidith (I know they’re twins but if they look alike do they have to sound alike too?!) I got used to that though, and also the twin doesn’t play a huge part in the story so she didn’t matter so much after a while.
I enjoyed the characters in this book a lot. Ailith makes a great protagonist and is very relatable, although I found that throughout the book, her lack of concern for her family started to bug me, and because of this, when they were used to blackmail her near the end, I didn’t feel as much of the emotional anguish as I think I should. She does mention missing them occasionally, but I thought they should play a bigger part, especially the twin sister, who you’d think she’d miss most, but is hardly mentioned once she’s married off.
I was pleased when Ailith’s relationship with Garrick didn’t go the way I thought it was going – although I’m fine for romance, it seemed a bit predictable – and he made an interesting villain as the spoilt, less powerful lord to Ailith’s new love.
Which brings me to Leofwin. I loved him as a character and I could see why Ailith loved him too (eventually) but I felt his character could have been revealed better. After Ailith has entered the castle and we have a chapter from Leofwin’s point of view, all the tension that had been built up over his supposedly evil nature vanished. It didn’t matter to me any more that Ailith was still dubious over his intents, because I knew he was a good guy (for want of a better term). I think it would have been more interesting to have the reader learn to trust him with Ailith rather than revealing his real nature so soon.
I think tension was my main problem with the book: when there was some, it was quickly solved. Once Ailith discovered Anselm and found our Leofwin wasn’t that bad, I wasn’t really sure where it was going. I felt like there needed to be more of a threat from Garrick, and that the ending needed slowing down a little. No sooner was Ailith captured than she’d found a way out and they were all about to live happily ever after.
BUT, despite all I’ve just said, don’t let that put you off. It’s an enjoyable read and I’d be interested in where the series would go next (if not a little disappointed that it might not feature Ailith and Leofwin again!)