Saturday, 9 July 2011

Review: Aurelia by Anne Osterlund

Princess Aurelia is next in line to rule the kingdom of Tyralt, but she would rather be one of the common folk, free to learn and roam and . . . not marry the next tyrannical prince that comes courting. Naturally, the king wants Aurelia to marry for political power. Aurelia wants to marry for love. And someone in the kingdom wants her . . . dead. Assigned to investigate and protect Aurelia is Robert, the son of the kings former royal spy and one of Aurelias oldest friends. As Aurelia and Robert slowly uncover clues as to who is threatening her, their friendship turns to romance. With everything possible on the line – her life, her kingdom, her heart, Aurelia is forced to take matters into her own hands, no matter the cost.

So this one was a bit of a mixed bag. There were some brilliant loves and some very definite un-loves. One of the big un-loves was that there was no set up or explanation of the hierarchy or society, the reader is left to fumble along feeling stupid for a few chapters whilst you work it out, and even then it feels a little bit fuzzy.

It feels like the book wants to be high fantasy, and there are moments when it has a distinct Tamora Pierce edge to it. Then on the next page there would be modern Americanisms and really modern names – I mean Daria on the one hand and Brian on another? It just seems a little confusing. Pick a genre and stick with it. There’s also a lot of rule breaking when it comes to the Princess. She seems to have a lot more freedom than we’ve come to expect for any royal in a fantasy book. This is explained to a certain extent with her rebelliousness and sneaky ways of getting out of the castle, but at times it did seem a little far-fetched.

My other big grump is that the real meat of the story didn’t happen until about two thirds of the way through the book. I know we needed the set up, but by the time the real plotting and court intrigue and politics came in there wasn’t much book left to cover it all. It felt like the book was trying to be one thing and barely managed to scratch the surface of it – which was a huge shame as there was so much potential here.

I loved the Tamora Pierce esq feel that came through – it’s been a while since I’ve read anything that wasn’t urban fantasy, so it was great to just plunge straight into a fantasy book. I did feel a little out of my depth with no rules or vague ideas of the place being explained, but the characters were funny and engaging, so I didn’t mind I was just happy to go along for the ride.

The prose was at time breathtakingly gorgeous, and at others a little cluttered so it felt a little like some poetic imagery was over laboured, which was a shame because Osterlund had some really beautiful prose mixed in – usually at the points where it didn’t feel like she was trying too hard.

The first half of the book tended to leap forward in pits and stops and there were some bits I was racing to find out what would happen next, and then others where I’d find my interest waning. Again, it wasn’t until the real intrigue kicks in much later in the book that it really got going, and I really wish that that had come in sooner, because there could have been some brilliant story telling taken from that.

But the basic idea was really good, and as I said, if it had been delved into sooner I probably would have loved this book. Osterlund does have a very compelling style and I was sad that I didn’t get involved earlier, because her writing has the edge of being something amazing – it just felt like it was hidden at times.

So all in all, not really sure what to make of it. I enjoyed it, but it probably won’t be one that I’ll return to. I am glad I read it though, and I’ll be sure to check out the author’s next work – this was her debut novel so maybe some of the creases I’ve pointed out will be ironed out in the next book. However, if I want to go back into fantasy realms I think I’ll stick with Tortall and Tamora Pierce next time.

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