Secrets abound and elves invade in this multiperspective fantasy.
Readers are welcomed into the corridors of Four Halls castle through four first-person, present perspectives. There’s tenacious Thelia, her eyes set on the crown; quick-witted Parsifal, whose facial disfigurement is ridiculed; Bayled, the king’s ward and heir; and Sapphire, a nonbinary elf who overtakes Four Halls along with an elite elven crew. Though these elves arrive to prevent a dangerous overflow of Magic, their ruthless methods petrify the humans and shock Sapphire, who expected the invasion to be nonviolent. As conditions worsen for the humans, Thelia, Parsifal, and Bayled work to overthrow the elves, with Sapphire showing signs of going turncoat as they develop affection for their captives. The narrative’s strength lies in its strong-willed characters and deeply developed world, but these don’t make up for a slow-moving plot, unconvincing emotional beats, and a lack of agency among protagonists. While the split perspectives initially create intrigue by letting readers in on secrets and lies, later they lead to duplicated information reveals and contribute to the story’s slow pace. Life-threatening situations and complicated romantic entanglements receive equal attention; an explicit sex scene between cousins will likely take readers by surprise, though a blooming polyamorous relationship is a refreshing addition. Protagonists are diverse in skin color, sexuality, and gender.
Compelling characters and worldbuilding are let down by an unengaging plot. (map) (Fantasy. 16-18)