Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Pages: 300 pages
A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.
Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.
Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.
This was one of my most anticipated reads, as it took far too long to make its way from the US over to the UK, and the positive reviews were already pouring in by that point. I went into it with high expectations, and felt... a bit ambivalent.
Don't get me wrong, it's a beautifully written book, with some curious world building and a host of intriguing characters. It's been compared to Sarah J Maas and Holly Black's writing, and there have been so many people who really loved it. But I just felt a bit flat. I wanted to be swept away in the story, I wanted to fall for these characters and be left wanting more. Instead I was perfectly entertained for a couple of hours and then left feeling a little non-plussed at the end.
I am endlessly frustrated by intelligent young women in fiction who are painted as smart and strong and then go all googly and air headed once they're intrigued by a man. Yes I want romance, but I felt like Isobel became a bit too flat and swoony for a male that I mostly felt irritated by.
And I don't really understand why. This book should have ticked all of my boxes and it didn't.