Monday, March 17, 2014

The Queen's Choice (Heirs of Chrior #1) by Cayla Kluver

The Queen's Choice (Book One Heirs of Chrior Trilogy)
by Cayla Kluver
Available Now
Harlequin Teen
Hardcover 512 pages
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Goodreads:  Magic was seeping out of me, black and agonizing. I could see it drifting away. The magic that would let me pass the Road to reach home again.

When sixteen-year-old Anya learns that her aunt, Queen of the Faerie Kingdom of Chrior, will soon die, her grief is equalled only by her despair for the future of the kingdom. Her young cousin, Illumina, is unfit to rule, and Anya is determined not to take up the queen's mantle herself.

Convinced that the only solution is to find Prince Zabriel, who long ago disappeared into the human realm of Warckum, and persuade him to take up his rightful crown, Anya journeys into the Warckum Territory to bring him home. But her journey is doomed to be more harrowing than she ever could have imagined.


This was a long novel. And some parts still seemed like they were too rushed. Others were definitely too long. So, yes, I guess I had a problem with the pacing, something I'm not sure I have ever written before.
But it was very clear in this novel. There were many problems and I am having problems with giving it a star rating on the sites that require stars because it really falls between stars. I'll explain.

Anya- The Queen's niece. A faerie, water elemental. Bonded to Davic who she describes as "solid and predictable, like a form of gravity." Not quite a heartpounding romantic sentiment. Nonetheless she loves him. As I read the story from her point of view, trying to illicit some form of attachment to her, I kept reminding myself that Anya was a royal, a faerie and often they have been portrayed as remote, distant, unfeeling. So keeping that in mind, I was able to read this 500 page book. Anya has a horrible experience, right from the start of her journey, one that she shouldn't have been taking in the first place, one taken for selfish reasons and she pays the highest of consequences. Her motives are selfish yet she rationalizes that they are not. And despite the fact that she has ventured into the human world quite often, she doesn't listen to that "faerie sense" inside of her that tells her there is something wrong.

Shea- Becomes acquainted with Anya when Anya needs medial assistance. Her family takes Anya in and dresses her wounds. They are helping her heal. They are also well aware of faeries so they aren't surprised at what Anya is. The most remarkable thing about Shea is that she is brave enough or just reckless enough to want to depart with Anya when she leaves to search the cities for her cousins. Shea is around the same age of Anya but is very inexperienced in the world. Yet, Shea is allowed to go with Anya. Well, not so much allowed as she threatens to go on her own if she isn't allowed. Reading the size of her father and his countenance, she is brave.

Illumina- First in line for the crown in Chrior, but passed over because of her age, 14, and her weird predilections for carving phrases into her skin and her anti human prejudices. The crown is pro human/faerie rights. Illumina would have another war with the humans an wipe them out of she could.

Zabriel- The Queen's half human/half fae son who ran off at 15 to the human world, shunning his responsibilities to the Fae World of Chrior. Zabriel has no elemental connection, that is he is not earth, air, fire or water spirit. He does have wings. But some of the Fae would refuse to follow him b/c he was not full fae, others loved him. He had a falling out with his mother the Queen after secrets she kept from him came out. He would have been the ruler of Chrior if he hadn't run.

The World- Chrior is nicely described. It sounds like a utopia of sorts. Only darker elements do show up. In flashbacks from Anya. Faeries live in nooks in the great Redwood tree or in the woods just beyond the Blood Road. There is a lot of confusion in the beginning. Someone has been killed or died before he ever sat on the throne. Someone else was banished. There is something going on at court as the story starts and Anya is flying in from the Blood Road. There is the Queen on her throne and all the royal seats surrounding her, many vacant. I couldn't figure out why. I didn't know who anyone was or belonged to. So there is confusion and it is cleared up, but it's like a pebble in a dryer that keeps going around and around, making so much noise that the idea never lets me keep my mind on the story until I could figure out what was going on with the thrones. Thankfully it didn't take too long. 

There isn't a lot of information on the human and fae war. The one that caused the fae to create the Blood Road that keeps the Humans away from the Fae. There are certain anti-human factions within the fae that would have all the humans destroyed. There are humans that would see all the fae destroyed. Presumably, that is what the first war was about. But really, we aren't allowed any information about it.  

The human world is unique. There is no electricity. No plumbing. Travel is done by foot, horse or boat. The fae fly of course. There are strict laws and debts to be paid. There are wealthy and poor and all manner of people between. Soup kitchens, halfway houses and drug dens. Pirates, traitors, spies. A varying array of people and places. And at the head of it all is the Governor. But we only meet his son who is taking care of business in his stead as the Governor  is ill.

Setting- It seems to be in the past, any time but no time specific.  There is strict security, border guards. To travel one must have papers. The Fae are known to have forged documents. Tension seems to be higher than usual in the human world, more guards are out and about. Children are disappearing. Fae are also disappearing. Mythological creatures seem to be on the prowl. In the Fae World, anti-Human demonstrations abound. Many fae disregard the Queen's pro-human leanings and lead protests and marches against the humans. Fae are disappearing as well. Or showing up with their wings cut off, their source of magic removed. It prevents them from going home, from crossing the Blood Road.

My Take- My Take- One thing I absolutely loved about this story was that the two main characters were Anya and Shea. Two female main characters on a quest! Yes, without nary a man in sight. In fact, Anya's intended, Davic, seems to be a bit afraid of even going out to the human world. So Anya is the one that goes out seeking Zabriel. And then Shea goes with her. The two are complimentary to each other, they show each other the way when the other strays, they are wisdom when the other is not, they hold each other up. I don't recall any other book where the two women were such great friends and so accomplished at their quest. For Shea, it doesn't matter where they are going as long as it's away from where she is now. For Anya, she figures it can't hurt to have a human along with her. Though the two get into a lot of trouble and Anya isn't exactly forthcoming about why she is there or rather who she is there for, they look out for each other and make a great pair. Their combined talents get them out of all kinds of sticky situations.
I very much love that it is two young women that don't need men to get them where they need to go.

So it's got that going for it, which is very good. And the story itself, it's very good. I love the story line. Great plot, great subplots. And I think they are carried out very well. So what is my problem with the story?

As I said, the pacing is off. Anya is hurt badly yet is up and around in three days. It doesn't make sense to me with such a terrible wound. Time spent in some places seems to be endless and unnecessary. In others, it seems to go too fast. The writing is good, descriptive and engaging. Of course, the ending was predictable, at least that something was going to happen. How could it not, it was a trilogy and it was the obvious choice. But I don't think it was the wrong choice or poorly done. And so now, as I write this, I am seeing that the pacing is the worst problem I had with it. And so now, I'm thinking, given some time away from the story, that I actually liked it more than I thought I did at first. The characters have stayed with me. The ending, though heartbreaking, left me wanting to know what would happen going forward. I felt Anya didn't listen to her better sense towards the end of the novel. But then, we all question ourselves and shut our inner voice up bowing to the voices of others at times. I can't expect more from my characters than I do myself.

So pacing aside, an original story with intelligent, more than capable female main characters, sharing a camaraderie for adventure and freedom. Faeries and humans, working together and against each other, showing prejudice at work and the evils it perpetrates in a highly creative way. I'd recommend this one. And I will read the next one in the series. I think a few less pages might help, but I never considered not finishing it. I think if you enjoy faeries, conflict, spies, court intrigue, politics and betrayals, along with some humor and a little romance, I think you'll find this an entertaining story. 

Thanks to the publishers for a copy of the novel for review. This did not affect my review in any way. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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  1. Hmm..I can definitely see what you mean by your "in between stars rating", Heather. The pacing and some of the characters do seem a bit off, uneven. I don't think I could have stuck with this for 500 pages, but I'm glad that you managed to enjoy it despite its flaws. I don't think this one is for me though.

    1. It was really hard to rate, but in the end I gave it four stars because of the female leads and the original story line. And the "aha" moment at the end. Really big and unexpected.

  2. It sounds like there was a lot to like, but I think from your review the world building sounds a bit shaky and if the pacing bothered you, I think this is not for me. Thanks for the honest review!

    1. Oh, the world was good, it really was, just that pacing was troublesome, and the characters, well Anya was a little hard to get close to.

  3. I think I can deal with the pacing if it has good characters. It does sound like it has that in spades. Still, if you had problems with the pacing, I know I would as well. Hopefully the other 2 books will fix that! Sometimes that happens. :)

    1. Yes, it's a shame too, because it's the first time I've seen two female leads be in control of the story. They aren't romantically involved, just becoming good friends, kind of thrown together by circumstance. And I love that part. But some of the other parts, just didn't work.

  4. Sounds good-- the fantasy element and world building sounds intriguing and I like the sound of the main character as well


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