Review of The Beholder by Anna Bright

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.

I’m going to preamble this review with an admission that I very nearly didn’t start it. That day I had seen a few reviews that weren’t favourable and it gave me a wobble. But as I always say, not all books are for everyone and I’m glad I ignored the reviews and went ahead! Firstly I am very lucky to have the gorgeous fairyloot edition of this book. The dusky pink sprayed edges are beautiful and the deep red of the hardcover is so lovely. It truly is a wonderful book to behold (said with a winky face) and what’s inside is actually pretty good too.

Whilst this is marketed as YA I would say it’s actually a very teen book, the romance is sweet and a little fluttery and the situations are very much for that age group. Myths and fairytales play a large part in the story, little nods here and there to different stories and each part of the book is prefaced with quotes from from fairytales from the obscure to the well known. This makes it unique in the sea of retellings because it’s not just drawing from a single source and it gave me a much needed boost back into the genre that I felt at saturation point with.

It’s entirely Selah’s show and  because of how the story moves and is set up we don’t have the chance to get too invested in the side characters, which is a shame. But with both Bear and Torden the author does an amazing job at making you want to fall in love with them, poor Selah! Selah comes across as flighty and naive, but she’s lived in a small rural area her whole life, she is sheltered and a daddy’s girl who has been through immeasurable loss. A child losing their mother is profound and is going to shape them and keep them childlike for longer – I make this point as there is a lot of hate for Selah but I think it’s pretty unfounded and I found her to be a likeable character, she has a presence of mind I wouldn’t have tagged her with and I felt she dealt with some difficult political situations well. For the most part I quite liked the flow of the story, she was quickly away from Potomac and on her journey far from home, this again I think gives her a pass for petulance!

The only time that I felt the story dragged was when Selah first arrived in Norge, I think I was still reeling from her exit from England and I struggled to get into the mindset for Norge. The thing about this book as there are 3 main settings and there are a whole slew of characters that appear in each. Honesty, I couldn’t remember who half of the people were most of the time which was a shame as it’s that kind of thing that really pulls me out of a story – and it frequently did. Selah is on a journey though and although I thought this was a standalone (it’s a duology) I liked how each place was given its due time and I appreciated the effort that went into the world building of each location, if not the characterisation. If there is one thing that this story has though, it’s plots within plots, it will keep you on your toes, never knowing who to trust whether it’s those closest or those on the edge of the story. There is some great political wranglings and a chance for Selah to understand what her future holds, if only she gives herself the chance!

Ultimately, I found this to be a hugely enjoyable read that was easy to take in with a story that flowed well pretty much throughout, it’s not overly caught up in its own lore which brings a lighter touch to what could otherwise be a too serious read.

4*

 

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