Fantasy novel with enjoyable characters and intriguing plot, despite some pacing issues

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An enjoyable fantasy story, not without a few hitches, but this one will have me going back for the sequel—as yet, still Untitled.

From the beginning, through several sets of introductions to characters, plots, and settings, the novel felt confusing and busy. An easy case of too many characters and too quick a rotation through their points-of-view. Here, in the first act (assuming the three-act structure) the novel dips quite often into the skimmable realm and the characters, at various times, feel fairly standard and stock with predictable voices.

Rielle—heroine number one—brings intrigue, power, and mystery to the table and is an easy character to like and care about. Her relationships with her friends and her mentor all feel very authentic and Legrand avoids many tropes often found in this kind of fantasy structure. There are no "mean girls," no overlording villainous court figure, and no unnecessary wavering of character and spirit. No one is hung up on all the decisions. Everyone seems to know his or her own mind, for the most part, and they play their roles accordingly.

Immediately, I liked Simon's POV, but was disappointed to find that he never takes over the narration again. Simon, a character not even mentioned in the book's summary, plays a pivotal role throughout the story, but he's never really given enough attention beyond that opening. The novel would've been improved if we didn't follow Eliana and instead got the benefit of Simon. He has more of an internal struggle with which we can identify (failure, anyone?) and seeing Eliana through his eyes would've smoothed out some of those rough edges Eliana brings.

Getting to know Eliana was a little more difficult. While I really liked that she is apparently interested in both sexes (how often is there a true main character who is bisexual?), I was disappointed from that angle that it wasn't explored more—but there are more novels to come, so we shall see. There are a pair of husbands who were tertiary characters, but who leveled out the diversity nicely in that area. Anytime a same-sex couple can be portrayed as ordinary and even introduced with all the nonchalance of it being no big deal, I'm in. But that's not my main issue with this character....

To me, Eliana seems like a faux-badass. Like she’s a badass until real badasses are present and then her badassery is diminished to something lesser and common. I don't know...just the lack of oomph from her character despite what I was told as we began her story. The Dread/Eliana was often caught unawares and she seemed to be thrown off her game quite often. Regardless, she felt more written than the other characters, and less real because of it.

Act two picks up the pace and really holds this story together. My interest level increased tremendously and I was ready for the story to break wide open. Once the trials began for Rielle, everything about this book improved markedly. Legrand really shines here with her ability to properly write both a fight action sequence and a magical obstacle course of sorts (for lack of a better term). Neither was overwritten or improperly paced—instead we had the necessary pull for wanting to continue reading. Skimmable pages—gone.

Unfortunately, we lost a bit of that engaging facet once we were in the third and final act of the story. Uneven delivery, pacing, characterization, and plot development leads to more questions than are necessary for a finale—even with the understanding that it’s part of a larger story to be concluded through later installments. The triangle between Ludivine, Rielle, and Audric felt grounded in the triangle created by the characters Scarlett O’Hara, Ashley Wilkes, and Melanie Hamilton for a while—it did eventually out itself properly and shake off any phoniness.

Eliana feels utterly laden with weaponry. And all those weapons all seem to be named with rather atypical names for swords, daggers, knives, and such. The weapon-pack-mule, coupled with an odd and sudden change in her dealings with Simon—which seems nearly out of character for her, or a rushed character evolution, she began to feel very forced and wrongly shaped. It was as though there was far more going on in the author's head than what appears in print.

However, the overall story is still intriguing and there were many questions from the ending that remain unanswered. Questions for which I do want answers. I hope there is improvement in the sequel that will bolster the need for a continuing series. Good beginnings.