Court of Bitter Thorn by Kay L Moody – ⭐⭐⭐
For a faery tale that is pretty much exactly what you would expect, for fans of A Court of Thorns and Roses, for a story that’s more about the character and the plot than any romance
Faerie wasn’t supposed to be real. Tricked by a fae prince, Elora is stuck in the Faerie realm far from her young sisters who depend on her for survival. Under the terms of her bargain, she can’t go home to the mortal world until Prince Brannick becomes the next High King. Or until he’s taken out of the running… Sabotaging Brannick’s chance at the crown will be much faster than helping him win. The fae prince may be charming, powerful, and wickedly handsome, but that won’t stop Elora from selling his secrets to the highest bidder. By day, she uses her master sword skills to train the prince, while ignoring her growing attraction to him. By night, she conspires with a rival king in a nearby court whose plans could destroy half of Faerie. If she gets caught, Brannick will kill her. But what’s life without a little bit of danger?
I was delighted by how much I enjoyed Kay L Moody’s other series, The Elements of the Crown, so when I saw that she had published the first in a new series, I was ready to jump in. From the description, I expected it to be a fun read but probably not anything that would blow me away with originality, and that’s about what I got. The world of fae and strong human females who get pulled into the world is a very popular theme, so it’s hard to do anything new, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be done well — and Moody certainly did!
The world building in the story is very well done. I loved getting bits and pieces about the rules of fae and the other courts that exist. Per usual, they follow the theme of each court being a different kind of terrain: an ocean court, a desert court, a forest court, and so on. And, as any good book about fae has, there is a curse on our court. This book shines in the small details around each element. While the framework is very familiar from other similar books, the touches like the rules Sprites follow and the enchanted seashell necklace are what set it apart. Where creativity is needed, we are given it in spades, and the sense of wonder is palpable. Elora is absolutely taken with the world of fae, and it’s hard not to be drawn into her awe.
However, some large elements felt like they got less attention. For example, early on Elora is given wings. WINGS. And for like 65% of the book, we never see them again. They’re hardly mentioned, until they come in real handy in a pinch. I had to resist rolling my eyes at that point… and kind of failed. Similarly, the “romance” element was rushed into the last portion of the book and felt so abrupt as to be unbelievable and kind of weird. It felt like it was added as a requirement, rather than as an integral part of the story.
This book is the start of a series, and it’s best to remember that while reading it. It takes some time for a plot to really develop, and the majority of the book is world building and learning about the fae. If read as a standalone, it could be quite slow at best. When thought of as an introduction to the continuing story, though — well, let’s just say I’m eagerly awaiting the next book to be released next year!
Thanks to Booksirens and Marten Press for a free copy in exchange for an honest review!
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