No two persons ever read the same book.
Which is good, because it gives us a chance to discuss books. And there’s nothing I enjoy more than analyzing a book to a pulp. Well, eating chocolate-covered bacon may come close, but there’s no guilt after you read a book. That’s called “market research.”
I review books on Goodreads and plan to post the most pertinent of those book reviews here. So here’s:
(The Divided Realms #1)
Maggie L. Wood
Young Adult Fantasy
An ordinary teenage girl discovers she’s a princess. And she has magical powers she must learn to use to defeat the bad guy. Oh, and she’s magicked into a fantasy medieval realm.
Sound familiar? Yup, does it me, too. But wait, this book has an interesting twist. Our heroine Willow belongs to a family cursed to play a game of high-stakes chess. Really high stakes. As in, certain people in the realm represent pawns, rooks, knights, etc. They have a “Game glow” as part of the curse. And if they are “captured,” or so much as scratched by an opponent in the game, they turn into literal chess pieces.
The chess theme is really what sets this book apart. Willow is a white pawn, but she is related to both the white and black sides. The grand strategy is to have her travel across the lands (across the board), and become “queened.” This means, just like in a game of chess, she will become one of the most powerful pieces in the game – in this case, she’ll have unfathomable magical powers.
The other unique setup is that not all the players in the game want to fight each other. Several of them have another, much harder goal: undo the chess curse by defeating the evil faerie, Nezeral. And Willow may be their last, best hope.
The realm of Mistolear is peopled by interesting characters. I wish the author had more time to go into detail about them, but that’s why there are sequels. We have a foster nanny, a whole album’s worth of relatives (cursed and uncursed) to meet, faeries who may or may not be using Willow for their own purposes, an apprentice mage, and most importantly, our love interest, Brand. Brand is also cursed as a player in this game of chess – a knight. He is obsessed with duty, mainly because he stands accused of betraying Willow’s parents (who are now both chess pieces). Brand is obsessed with protecting Willow and clearing his name, even if it means acting like an ornery prig for the first half of the book. Even though I found the romance between Willow and Brand a little forced, I enjoyed the growth in both these characters.
At first I did not like the character of Willow, but I think this is intentional on the author’s part. When we first meet 15yo Willow, she fails to stand up for a friend who is being teased by a cute guy Willow likes. But this bad beginning does give Willow plenty of room for growth, and the author gives her future opportunities to redeem herself. For example, a resourceful peasant girl, Gemma, helps them on the journey. Will Willow stand up for Gemma when Gemma is beaten and bullied by her employer? Will Willow offer the same kind of friendship in public as she does in private, when palace expectations dictate two girls from such different classes should not be friends? Linked with this is the general notion of self-sacrifice vs. selfishness. Who should Willow side with? And what is she willing to risk for people she just met?
In the end, Willow, with her new magical powers, must face the evil faerie Nezeral lone. And the ending is unexpected.
Overall: an interesting twist on a familiar setup, with a teenage protagonist who grows and matures.