Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Review: The Shattered Court by M. J. Scott

Publication Date: 28th April 2015
Publisher: Roc - Penguin Random House
Length: 336 pages

Huge thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

Mild spoilers contained below

Entangled in a court ruled by tradition and intrigue, a young witch must come to terms with newfound power and desire—and a choice between loyalty and survival.…
The royal witches of Anglion have bowed to tradition for centuries. If a woman of royal blood manifests powers, she is immediately bound by rites of marriage. She will serve her lord by practicing the tamer magics of the earth—ensuring good harvests and predicting the weather. Any magic more dangerous is forbidden.
Lady Sophia Kendall, thirty-second in line to the throne, is only days away from finding out if she will be blessed—or perhaps cursed—with magic. When a vicious attack by Anglion’s ancient enemies leaves the kingdom in chaos, Sophia is forced to flee the court. Her protector by happenstance is Lieutenant Cameron Mackenzie, a member of the royal guard, raised all his life to be fiercely loyal to the Crown.
Then Sophia’s powers manifest stronger than she ever imagined they would, and Cameron and she are inextricably linked in the process. As a witch unbound by marriage rites, Sophia is not only a threat to the established order of her country, but is also a weapon for those who seek to destroy it. Faced with old secrets and new truths, she must decide if she will fight for her country or succumb to the delicious temptation of power.

This novel was one I was incredible excited about ever since it first cropped up on Goodreads. However it ended up being a slightly mixed read for me. There were elements that I loved, but sadly there were also parts that really didn’t work, so whilst I did enjoy the book it didn’t rate as highly as I was hoping it would.

I enjoyed the fantasy world, and on the whole the world building was really good although there are a lot of gaps to be filled in as the series progresses. The idea of the royal witches, the shake up to the court, the intrigue and underhand dealings in a royal setting are all things I love in novels and I thought were brought into the plot to heighten the tension incredibly well. I also loved elements of the romance, although there were aspects that were not quite as strong that I will go into further detail on in a moment.

It was a quick read, drawing me into the story and immediately shaking things up and launching into a rapidly thickening plot, and as a light romance book with magical undertones and a side serving of court life I really loved it. However I was expecting more from the blurb and this is where the problems start to creep in.

The novel felt like it was trying to be too many things, and go in too many directions at once, and as a result feels as though none of the aspects are more than touched upon. It couldn’t quite decide if it wanted to be a romance, or a court intrigue, or a tale about witches and as a result feels like it touches on each aspect but doesn’t fully develop them. It doesn’t really feel like the stakes are particularly high or the emotional impact or consequences are particularly real.

The pacing is a little off in places, particularly for the first third of the novel. Whilst it is important that Sophie and Cam are separated from the castle for the events that shape the story to unfold, it feels implausible and slows the tempo of the novel right down. Their travels round the countryside sadly do not make for the most fascinating reading.

The romance as well was slightly mixed. There was no real development of feeling between Cam and Sophie. They go from near strangers to acting as though they have been together for years with no real in-between. I would have loved to see more of a build-up and development between them. However their feelings towards each other really drove the latter part of the novel and I am looking forward to seeing more of them as a partnership in the second novel. However do be wary of some of the language used, particularly in the sex scenes, as it isn’t language readers would normally expect in a fantasy novel. If you’re familiar with modern romances it won’t be quite as jarring, but I was quite surprised at some of the language as it really threw me out of the fantasy setting and wasn’t in keeping with the language used in the rest of the novel.

It felt like the ideas were there for this – a love story in a land where nefarious dealings are happening and witches, particularly royal witches are powerful tools of the court – however none of them were brought to full fruition. The groundwork for the second book has been well laid though, and I’m very interested to see where the second books takes us.

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