(Click the book cover to see on Goodreads)
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Author: Katherine Bogle
Length: 208 pages
Publication: May 11th 2016 by Friesen Press
Note: The author, Katherine Bogle, sent me a free ebook in exchange for my honest review.
Her immortality has saved her time and time again, but when the last of her royal family dies at her feet, she is next in line to rule a nation on the brink of war. With no formal training on how to be Queen, Haven must rise to the occasion with the help of her best friends, and personal guard, or risk losing everyone she has ever loved.
With war to the West, and no escape to the East, the evil tyrant Kadia sets her sights on the six kingdoms. Haven’s neighbors are quick to fall under the swords of Kadia’s shadow soldiers, leaving a sea of bodies and a clear path to Haven’s only home.
As Kadia’s obsession with Haven mounts, little time remains, and Haven must make a choice; join together with her fellow Royals, and test her immortality in a final stand against the evil Queen, or flee across the sea to a foreign republic in hopes of salvation. Both choices have a cost. Both plans could go awry. Haven must decide quickly, or she might be the only one left.
‘Haven’ is written in third person past tense omniscient. Even so, the narration follows a single character: Haven Fyre, a nineteen-year-old Queen. The only time other characters’ thoughts are made apparent is when they’re near Haven. Otherwise much of the narration is filled with Haven’s thoughts, feelings, and point of view.
Pacing: The pacing of the novel feels fast. Surprise scenes are spread throughout to heighten the sense of urgency and keep the reader engaged. Yet, this notion of pace is quickly revoked whenever the reader encounters a sudden skip in time, often the insertion of a few weeks. While necessary in certain places, such as during skill improvement scenes, other times felt unrealistic and acted as a distraction from the story at hand.
World: The world gives the sense of being historical fiction through the extravagance of the buildings and dress combined with the sword-laden warriors. Yet, beyond that, there is little detail. Brief, commonplace descriptions of scenes are given, but none of them are fleshed out into fully formed images. As a result, the world feels more like a half-formed shadow world with no importance for the characters.
Writing: The writing is clear and precise and to the point. While offering explicit details during conversations to set the tone among the characters, fighting scenes utilize fewer words so as not to bog down the writing. Thus focusing on the action as a whole and its meaning rather than the specifics of the motions. This separation offers emphasis for what details are important in the story.
Non-Spoilered Plot: Being third born, Haven never assumed she’d be Queen. Yet, when the war with Queen Kadia steals those in line ahead of her, she’s thrust into a role she knows nothing about. Even so, she must learn and learn fast for an army plagues the lands to the West and they march with their sights set on Haven’s kingdom. Yet, with her allies falling left and right, Haven must decide whether she can risk standing against the enemy or risk losing her land in an effort to save her people.
Character: Haven is a nineteen-year-old, newly crowned Queen with all the breeding and none of the teachings. After all, she was never meant to be Queen what with being third in line for the throne. Yet, when the duty is thrust upon her, she accepts it willingly. Even an untrained Queen can care about her people and that’s exactly the type of person Haven proves herself to be: caring. Still, her naivety doesn’t show at any point in the book because she never seems to make the wrong choice. None of her actions have consequences, making her a little too squeaky clean for my taste.
Plot: The main plot of this novel is a menagerie of sorts because it combines ‘the quest’ and ‘overcoming the monster’. The only difference is the large amount of rising action before it becomes clear that Haven must go on her ‘quest’ with her people and fight the ‘monster’ herself. It isn’t until nearly halfway through the book that Haven’s kingdom is threatened because so much of the rising action is watching the attempts and failures of the other kingdoms to fight against Queen Kadia. Yet, it’s this reinforcement that makes it clear that Haven doesn’t stand a chance. Cue ‘Quest’.
Her ‘quest’ however is rather short-lived when she gets taken by Queen Kadia to be her prisoner/source of amusement/friend/sister. Wait, what? During Haven’s time in Cidra it becomes known that Queen Kadia may not be the most mentally stable. It’s also hinted at that something is wrong with the servants/slaves/townspeople. Yet, at no point in book one is it explained exactly what’s going on. Nor do we really get any insight into who Kadia is, which keeps her at arms length. Though, it doesn’t really make her more villainous to do so. This is disappointing because there’s obviously something in Kadia’s past, perhaps something that explains why she is the way she is, but no one ever ever tries to understand her or explain her odd behavior. They just pass her off straight away as ‘mad’. The only person who might know something is Nina, who remains suddenly mute at the end of the book.
Another unanswered question is the underground tunnel. The parts of the tunnel revealed to the reader are the jungle with tigers and a mirror room with hot water and strange water serpents, but what about the rest of the tunnel? It took them weeks to get through the tunnel. What other dark places did the group encounter? Were they really pushed to their limit? Because only nameless characters died in this tunnel and I’m also curious to know how they fed themselves for weeks underground. For all the talk about the tunnel being treacherous and dangerous, the group didn’t seem to have too much difficulty.
By the time they reach Cidra once more to fight ‘the monster’, Haven has freed the warriors of Seaburn, giving her an army, has gained a secret weapon against Kadia(Nina), and has managed to overcome all of her previous mental and physical plagues from her time in Kadia’s castle. Yet, instead of just killing Kadia when she has her blade at her throat, she gives the woman a last battle. Why? This I can’t understand. The folly behind giving the villain the opportunity to flee or worse, win, seems like a heroic cliche. The smart thing to do would be to cut off her head, especially when losing could be mean her kingdom and her people. Though, perhaps there is more closure for Haven in fighting her rather than murdering her. Either way, it’s not like Haven can die. So, what’s she truly risking by fighting Kadia in the end?
Even with the unanswered questions and the confusing things characters do at times, this book was quite an interesting read. There were hints pointing to something far more malevolent in the works. Not all the ‘good guys’ were strong. And there’s plenty of interesting, unexplained fantasy elements that keep people drawn in and thirsty for more. With that being said, I leave my rating of this book, ‘Haven’, at four stars.
Have you read ‘Haven’? What’d you think of it?
Let me know in the comments below!