Hello Humans! It’s been a while since I last reviewed something that wasn’t a review copy, and I’ve been feeling more than a little guilty about it. So I’m trying to get back onto the reviewing owned books wagon and what better place to start than with The Beholder. This book kept catching my eye on my various social media feeds. I won’t lie to you – it was largely because of the boat. I mean, if there’s a boat on the cover that means there’s a fair chance that there could be Pirates.
Were there pirates? Was it as good as the blurb made it sound like it would be? You’ll have to read on to find out.
Selah has waited her whole life for a happily ever after. As the only daughter of the leader of Potomac, she knows her duty is to find the perfect match, a partner who will help secure the future of her people. Now that day has finally come.
But after an excruciatingly public rejection from her closest childhood friend, Selah’s stepmother suggests an unthinkable solution: Selah must set sail across the Atlantic, where a series of potential suitors awaits—and if she doesn’t come home engaged, she shouldn’t come home at all.
From English castle gardens to the fjords of Norge, and under the eye of the dreaded Imperiya Yotne, Selah’s quest will be the journey of a lifetime. But her stepmother’s schemes aren’t the only secrets hiding belowdecks…and the stakes of her voyage may be higher than any happy ending.
On the one hand, I think back to when I was actually reading this book and I didn’t have the worst time? It’s very cheesy and silly and more than a little far-fetched – but it’s also pretty aware of that fact so you just get a bit swept up in a kind of romantic romp. It has that feeling of fanfic but with reasonable grammar- you know?
So yes, if you go in expecting something serious I think all you’ll be is seriously dissapointed (I’m sorry). But it’s not the worst reading experience when you’re actually in it – provided you go in with the expectation that you’re going to be reading something silly.
It’s only now that I’ve had a bit of time to reflect and to consider how I felt about the book that I’ve moved from bemused to…annoyed.
Believe me when I say I’ve read and enjoyed my share of books with far-fetched plots and hugely unlikely scenarios. That wasn’t the problem I had with this book.
It really felt as though this book didn’t know what it wanted to be, the overall worldbuilding felt like it was done on an ad hoc basis. As far as I could tell, large portions of the book were in ‘generic historical fantasy’ times – but there were also very rare radios? Was there electricity? It genuinely wasn’t clear. Even allowing for my usual moments of missing/forgetting worldbuilding specifics I felt like this book left a lot to be desired. It definitely felt as though the world came after the plot, and that technology and culture were shoehorned in to fit where the author wanted the story to go.
My other complaint is a bit of a spoiler so skip the next paragraph if you want to go in fresh if/when you read this.
A major part of Selah’s motivation in this story is the fact that she does not want to go to Russia ( I don’t think it was called Russia but it was Russia), because there is an evil Empress there and she’s very scared of her. That’s great, love me an evil queen, am writing an evil queen right now. Can’t wait to meet her- wait? They never go there? Not even a little?
It was so strange. It basically makes it so that you never encounter any antagonist (there are some antagonistic characters but they aren’t that bad) in the story – they’re just mentioned and alluded to. I can think of some settings and books where that would work really well but it felt like too much villain-baiting for me and it made me very frustrated right at the end of the book when it became apparent that I read most of the Russia-fear for little to no reason.*
*I’ll allow there is meant to be a sequel and she’ll probably go there in the sequel but still, you’re only going to give me two settings in a book that could/should have had so much more scope?
So you see how I’m conflicted? I want to recommend this as a fun silly romp – come laugh at/with the descriptions of fantasy England where everyone wears tweed! But there are bigger flaws in the story that, in hindsight, really bother me! Also no pirates…
My rating: 3/5 stars – the ultimate undecided rating!
I bought this book myself, all opinions are my own.
The Beholder is available now!
What say you? What are your thoughts on ‘silly’ books? Let me know in the comments below!