Fantasy / Romance / YA
I usually write my reviews either immediately after reading a book or within the next 24 hours. Otherwise all the little details that build up my opinion about a book start slipping away and I’m left with only “I liked it” or “Meh, it was all right” or “OH DEAR GOD TAKE IT AWAY!” Finishing Legacy, I had to give myself time for my eyes to de-glaze. My god, were the last 70 pages or so of this book boooooring. I have absolutely no inclination to pick up the next book in the series because nothing really happened at the end besides going through the motions of life.
But let’s step back about ten paces because there was one time when I was enjoying this book. I mean, there are maps at the beginning! Bonus points for books with maps! It means there’s a world so big it NEEDS A MAP! Too bad Kluver didn’t utilize barely any of the areas mapped besides the core kingdom her characters lived in…
So the plot is pretty basic: We have Kingdom A. They’re they good guys, and therefore, the ones we follow. And then there’s Kingdom B. They’re the bad guys, who steal babies (really!), play with black magic and probably kick puppies (okay, not so much with the last one). There was a 100 year war and then one day Kingdom B just went home. They weren’t defeated; they just left. Now it’s 16 years later and the only stolen baby not killed is now a teenage boy, who returns to Kingdom A and inadvertently causes trouble.
Because the story is told in first person limited narration, we as the reader are stuck inside Princess Alera’s head and life. She is the headstrong eldest daughter of the King and therefore the heir to the throne. Her father is more or less pushing her into an arranged marriage to the son of his military commander – a slight older pompous jerk with a giant ego. Alera rightfully dislikes her suitor, Steldor, because he’s much like all the other men she’s surrounded by and believes she should be quiet and not worry about kingdom matters because that’s “man business”. Kulver doesn’t actually use that phrase.
So patriarchal society in Kingdom A. Kingdom B happens to be more of a matriarchal society, so stolen boy Narian respects women more than men. When Alera meets him, of course, this makes her very happy and sparks start to sizzle a little in the background. Meanwhile Kingdom B is pissed that Narian ran away and are trying to get him back because of some prophecy he’s supposed to fulfill. Of course Kingdom A is a bit leery of a boy raised by their sworn enemies and all the adults grumble about him.
The story had potential, and for the first 200 pages or so, I was really enjoying it. I like Princess Alera’s spunkiness and how she had her bodyguards wrapped around her finger. I liked Landon, one of said bodyguards, and for a while wanted her to end up with him despite the drastic age difference. There were intriguing things happening, setting up what I thought would be an interesting tale of Alera defying the odds and taking control of her future just as the walls of her safe happy little world came crashing down admits a new war. I didn’t even mind that every time Kluver mentioned Landon, she had to point out the he was leaning against the wall. I got it after the third time. He’s a wall-leaner. Character trait noted.
Despite the problems I had with the sometimes juvenile nature of the repetitive story structure, I liked the characters and I liked the tension between the princess and Narian, once he arrived. Actually, I just liked Narian. He was an interesting figure from concept to execution, and a nice foil to the obnoxious Steldor. It could also be that he was one of the only people that treated Alera as though she were a person and not an object, which always adds points in my book. It also always seemed as though things were happening when he was around whereas everything sort of stood still when he was off screen. Whenever he and Alera were together, I giggled like a 15-year-old girl. It was exactly the “will they won’t they” stuff I like in my YA books, and because of that, the love triangle situation didn’t bother me at all.
By then I was halfway through and Kluver was describing yet another dress or the formation of another caravan or the food at another meal, and I just started to not care. It felt like fifteen pages of boring broken up by a page or two of things happening, and as I got further along, the boring parts became lengthier and the things happening parts came less often.
Kluver also has a difficult time with action scenes, which is probably why she chose first person narration so most of the action sequences happen “off stage” and she doesn’t have to describe them other than in dialogue. During the "weapons demonstration" between Steldor and Narian, the only real action scene in the book, I attempted to visualize the movements and attack positions each boy was taking. I've played a lot of videogames, seen a lot of action movies and know what hand-to-hand combat usually looks like. This I could barely visualize at all. Based on some descriptions, the guys were contorting in manners that are probably not humanly possible except for Cirque di Soleil contortionists. It was distracting and took me out of what could have been a very exciting scene.
And just a side note pet peeve of mine: I hate the word "tresses". If I never see it in a book again, I will be very happy. If you're talking about people's hair so often that you need to find synonyms for it, YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT HAIR TOO MUCH!
The incongruousness of the cover with the context of the book threw me every time I saw it. The girl on the cover looks like she's in an early 20th century party dress, perhaps flapper era, not in a gown often associated with fantasy realms reflecting the 18th century or earlier. But that’s my weird “judging a book by the cover” thing coming out again.
I wanted to keep liking this book, I really did, but as I finally had a length of time to sit down and sink into it, I could just feel my opinion of it slipping further and further down. Kluver has the potential to be a great storyteller, but she really needs better editors who are willing to take out some of the filler. Had the unnecessary descriptions of characters we only meet briefly were cut, I’m pretty sure it would have been at least 20 pages shorter. If the multiple unnecessary reminders of what color people’s hair was or how all the guards lean against the wall or how someone looks like their mother were all taken out, it would have been 100 pages shorter. Descriptions are great; they help you build a world and fill it in. But I do not need to know the placement of every piece of furniture in a room we’re spending three pages in.
The parts that worked, where things happened and people weren’t just sitting around waiting, really worked. I enjoyed them. I giggled. I waited not so patiently for Narian to show back up when he wasn’t in the story. But then it just kept repeating itself, even about tiny little cryptic details that are never explained, which is annoying and made my eyes glaze over. That’s why I have to give it a…
Great real characters stuck in the drudgery of too many descriptions; desperate need of some heavy content editing; so much potential not fulfilled
This book was provided for review by the publisher through Netgalley.