Monday, 8 June 2015

The Shattered Court

Author: M.J Scott
Genre: Fantasy
Series: #1 in the Four Arts series)
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Penguin Group/Berkley 
First Published: April 28, 2015
First Line: "Milady, please pay attention."

Book Description from GoodReadsEntangled 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.

My Review: When I saw the cover of this book I requested it because I was in the mood for a fantasy read complete with magic, action and mayhem.  Based on the cover I assumed it would be a Young Adult Fantasy with a bit of romance but this idea was quickly quashed after reading a rather sassy (okay, more like explicit) love scene early on.  After reading that scene I'd definitely consider this an adult read.

I'm all for a well placed love scene in a book but there has to be some meat to the overall plot. In The Shattered Court we are given a reason for the initial, steamy love scene but this theme of romance (albeit some was more of the 'bodice ripper' variety) took centre stage throughout the book leaving the reader without enough of a story line to keep up the momentum.  I spent a lot of the book hoping that there would be some strong plot twist to ramp up the energy of the book but unfortunately that never happened.  

The magic aspect is what drew me initially to pick up this book.  I do so love a good magical read but I don't think the magical element was used nearly enough (or described clearly for the reader).  We see a bit here and there and it's given as the reason for a few sexual entanglements but if I'm being frank, if you take out the romance/'insta-love'/sex aspect there isn't a lot of plot left to work with.  I wanted to see Sophia learn to use her power and see her deal with the intriguing Domina but a lot of that happened 'off stage'.  I was expecting the intrigue of living at court, magic and a bit of romance but instead most of the focus was put on the weak relationship between Sophia and Cameron leaving me less than invested or interested in the overall plot.

I don't want to be a Debbie Downer about this book because I did enjoy some aspects. Scott's writing was impressive and very descriptive and the world she created was interesting (especially her travel portals).  I think that she had some good ideas (loved the animosity of the Domina and Sophia's initial connection to the Princess) but they just weren't executed strongly enough.  

Initially I found her main characters, Sophia and Cameron, to be interesting but I soon found myself struggling with their weak character development.  For me, Sophia was too passive to be an interesting main character as were her fellow witches.  It was quickly evident that it was a book about women being treated as pawns and, depending on their powers, given to the next eligible bachelor to improve his household.  There isn't a whole lot of girl power in this first book and that was disappointing. I would have loved for this book to be about strong young women who use their supernatural powers (which, to be honest, were vaguely described) to take back some of the power to benefit themselves and their community.  I was more than a little shocked that they didn't see that they could rise up and overpower the powers that be.

Overall, I was disappointed with this book.  While it does have some interesting ideas it was weak in execution.  I think that with more focus on character development and a stronger plot the future books in this series could be much more engaging.

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Penguin Group/Berkley and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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