Sunday, September 10, 2017

BOOK REVIEW for "The Eldritch Heart" by Matthew S. Cox

****(4) out of 5 stars!


Princess Oona Talomir enjoys the little things that come with her station: a handmaiden, her lavish bedchamber, and scores of fancy dresses ― the duty to win a decades’ long war, not so much.

Oh, did I mention assassins?

Seers foretold the conflict would end by her hand. From the moment she drew her first breath, the neighboring kingdom has been trying to kill her so she could not grow powerful enough to destroy them. The king, fearing for his daughter’s life, has kept her confined to the castle grounds for most of her sixteen years. With the tide of war turning against them, the burden of her crown becomes too much to bear, yet one thing lifts her spirits amid the gloom.

Her servant girl, Kitlyn.

Alas, in a kingdom obsessed with the god of purity, she is terrified to confess her forbidden love. When her father makes a demand she cannot abide ― marry a prince to forge a military alliance ― Oona panics. He is handsome and honorable, but he’s not Kitlyn. Unable to admit why she cannot obey, Oona does the only thing she can think of, and runs away.

Alone and unprepared in the wilderness, she prays the gods will let Kitlyn find her — before the assassins do.


I enjoyed this book far more than I thought I would.  I requested it originally because I heard there was a main player – a Princess, no less – who was an LGBTQ character.  Since, even in this day and age, this seems to be an underrepresented segment of society, I thought this work would be well worth promoting, or at least exploring.  Turns out, I was right on both counts.

The author has crafted a wonderful adventure story full of intrigue, action, mystery, romance, and fantasy.  It is truly a delightful tale, awash with magic and seemingly fueled with heart.

Despite how much I enjoyed the tale, I have to warn that it did start out SO boring!  The first third of the book is world-building and stage-setting, but it just drags on and on.  It is mostly full of the Princess Oona and her supposed hand-maiden Kitlyn both moaning, albeit mostly internally, about the drawbacks of their respective lots in life.  Nearly everyone is especially and unnecessarily cruel to Kitlyn, which just became depressing to continue reading about. 

There’s also an awful lot of teenage angst in the form of repeated “Does she love me?” queries, again mostly internal, from both characters, neither of whom can bring themselves to admit their true feelings.  For, you see, Oona and Kitlyn, who once were the best of friends, now more Princess and servant, are in love with each other, but both are too afraid to act on it. 

Eventually, due to other outside circumstances, things come to a head and the girls independently leave the castle where they’ve basically been imprisoned for years for their own protection.  To say they are ill-prepared for the outside world is a bit of an understatement, but they each turn out to be loyal, creative, determined, kick-butt women in their own right.  And after many adventures and mishaps, they finally get a shot at their own non-traditional happily ever after. 

I liked how it wasn’t the usual trope of the charming prince rescuing the helpless princess.  Instead, it was about two young women coming of age and growing into their own voices, while simultaneously trying to navigate an awful lot of distracting outside influences. 

I must admit that I found the “love scenes” more uncomfortable than I had anticipated.  In reality, they entailed nothing more than some kissing and light petting.  But I don’t believe I’ve ever read anything of the sort that didn’t involve just a man/woman pairing.  Consequently, it did take a bit of getting used to.  And it definitely reinforced to me that while I don’t have anything against same sex couples, and in fact in real life have several close family and friends in such relationships, it definitely is just not my thing. 

The ending is basically a happy one, which I was very glad of; even though the girls will undoubtedly have many challenges ahead in their relationship and due to various issues in their kingdom, they are poised to have a wonderful future together.  Yet it did all seem to wrap up a bit too quickly.  I would have enjoyed some more explanation as to what comes next, as much with the kingdom as with the main characters.  It was definitely a shame how some very intriguing secondary characters were rather abruptly disposed of in the tale; I would have liked to know more about several of them.

Definitely a good read that I highly recommend though, especially if you are looking for sympathetic and realistic LGBTQ characters, and the type of kick-butt female lead who can be her own heroine.
I received a free eBook copy of this novel from 
Curiosity Quills Press and NetGalley, 
and have willingly provided an honest review.  

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