This is my second foray into books about the fey, and even though Cruel Prince brought me a lot to complain about, it was for sure a lot more interesting and together than this was. While I’d say the book was good- specific flaws are hard- it felt like some things happened too quickly, others too slowly, and overall I just wasn’t that engaged.
There’s a town where everyone is really aware of the fey (I forget, by the way, if it’s spelled fae or fey in this book and others). In this town, there’s also a class coffin in the woods with a horned boy. While most people in town believe in, and fear, the fey, Hazel and her brother know better than the rest: when they were younger, Hazel found a sword in the woods, and decided to make herself a knight against evil. Years later, they’ve stopped this, but Hazel is still haunted by her once-past, and the deal she made with a fey.
Then the coffin breaks open! And other suspicious stuff begins happening too, of course, including a spooky monster in the woods appearing more and more often.
Like with the cruel prince, the family dynamics were great. Ben and Hazel felt like siblings and were believable as such, and their ties to their irresponsible parents felt realistic and oddly familiar, like I’d know parents like that.
There’s not much fey stuff (a lot of this I compare to Cruel Prince, which I read last), but it’s all quite complex and developed world wise, with many interesting superstitions and folklore poking in. The boy in the glass coffin who’d been there generations- the town felt like that was the case, with its beliefs about him, and the teenage parties that also took place.
The characters were well likeable too. I really liked Hazel, our main lead! Jack, the semi-ish changeling was an interesting concept and fully likeable, as was Ben and even just schoolmates in passing. They felt like teens as well as being characters I could like and root for. This is. A HUGE BOON considering Cruel Prince was mostly about bullying and abuse.
There was good writing and scenes and lines in general, too! I am particularly fond of Young Hazel’s flashbacks and scenes, I can completely buy them, and also relate as a kid who used to pretend things in the woods (luckily never actually fighting them) (or unluckily….?)
The plot felt weirdly paced at times- a lot happens in the last few chapters compared to the first too, and it is slightly uneven to follow. I didn’t fully follow some of the action scenes. The plot too felt a little too contrived at times- a lot of poetry and hints that, while all solved, were a little unnatural to follow and just sort of contributed to the clutter. About twice Hazel makes lists of what she knows, just to arrange it for readers. Also, not a big fan of mysteries where the answer can be googled (huh, reminds me how there’s like, no phones or internet in this book, but then there also is).
Fey stuff is meant to be Other, but we really don’t see much of it, and I wasn’t that engaged with what we did. There’s really just one party, and we don’t spend long there. Even when the horned boy is awake and busy being a fey, we don’t get much fey content. As it’s sort of the interesting part of the world, this feels a bit like a shame.
Horned boy, also: his name is severin, and I did not care for him. Character relationships in general felt a bit rushed, especially between Severin and Ben. I understand it’s a one-off book anyways, with two couples to get together, but Sever/ben went from 10 to 100 real quick, and I didn’t buy it. It doesn’t help Severin is not all that likeable and doesn’t seem to have any placeable personality traits- most of the time he’s around, he’s just moving the plot along. A sudden romance/love story felt out of place.
Hazel and Jack, meanwhile, was likeable and good, but similarly went through some jumps in order to wrap it up by the end.
A lot of the main villain stuff felt a little off too: it doesn’t help we don’t know the villain until like, 70% in, and the monster is really confirmed as a foe a little bit before that. While in theory scenes like the fey madness in school should have been creepy, I felt like there was a lack of clear rules on her influence, abilities, and range. Beyond this, her whole thing is solved very quickly, and I don’t really understand how (she seems to get over the whole concept that made her a monster off screen).
This is for sure a solid fantasy book that is interesting and fine, but it didn’t really engage or capture me in the same way cruel prince did, even though it actually had a likable cast.
I do find myself weirdly bothered that, like cruel prince, there’s just Too Many Princes. Do we always need princes? Horned boy is a prince, someone else turns out to be a prince…. just, a high prince count, you know?
I guess that’s just life.