I gave Stolen by the Shadow King by Alisha Klapheke a 4.3/5 stars. This fabulous enemies to lovers was the first of a fantasy romance series. I’m unsure if it’ll be a duology or longer. The next is called Rise of the Fire Queen, available for preorder. There are other books related to this one in the Kingdom of Lore with different characters. Even though this was third person past tense (I prefer first person stories), I connected with the characters around chapter four, so stick through the first few.
Because of the black cover I assumed this was “dark fantasy” but it’s quite comical and light hearted. I don’t fear for her safety because there has been no proof that she’s in actual danger so the dark shades of the cover don’t represent the upbeat banter. This story reminded me of The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller, which felt “darker” than this one.
Here’s some thoughts while reading:
After chapter one, I’m excited about this world. There’s already a leader of the underworld, the Shadow King, and Maren who can come and go Between as the Deadspeaker. There’s already yesterday’s vision that we know nothing else about. Who will it impact? Is it good or bad news? What will become of Maren’s princess friend we’ve just been introduced to? The prose were a little choppy and felt a bit forced but I like the concept enough to keep going for now.
Oh and the elemental magic is comparable to my work in progress, the Linked Trilogy.
After chapter 4 it seems as if our dear Maren heroine has a secret identity she wasn’t aware of. The potential of enemies to lovers trope has been set up. The dialogue between her friends feels a bit unnatural and flat though. The action scene feels like a list of actions without emotion behind it.
The prose has awkward large vocabulary words that take me out of the scene like: concoct, encumbered, scried, etc.
So in chapter five I’m wondering the age of Maren since her friends are married. (At the end of the book I learned she is 22). And even though this is an epic fantasy land, I’m trying to get a grasp around the time frame. It feels as if it’s set in a historical fiction time centuries ago with lanterns, swords, and horse riding for travel. I guess I’m wondering this because the comparable book coming to mind is Hades and Persephone’s sorry in “Touch of Darkness which was set in contemporary times.” When I wrote that review I was hoping for an underworld story with characters of a different backstory than Greek gods. Ask and you shall receive.
In chapter six I’m starting to get a handle on the humor and Maren’s personality. Until now it’s been questionable whether the characters are being sarcastic or flat because it hasn’t been obvious. Things are happening fast and the chapters are quick. It feels like I’m just getting the bare minimum of the world-building so there’s a bunch of potential. I’m intrigued to see how the author will balance out the complexities of the rules and answering the reader’s questions vs establishing the romantic aspect of their connection. Also, what will happen to the Sacred Oak? Why can’t Maren leave? What about the ice? Where is her wand? Does she have any powers there? Why doesn’t she know her identity? There’s a lot going on in a short duration.
Chapter 7 gave me lots of Beauty and the Beast vibes. Her character was more likeable and concrete here. There weren’t as many distractions within the group so Maren’s persona was more obvious. I’m enjoying the multiple languages of the lands being shown. What feels overwhelming is that every other page something new is learned. It’s great that the world building is sprinkled in instead of info dump, but I feel attacked by the bird and pieces being added on so quickly without time to process. There’s now possible dragon/bat creatures she wasn’t expecting. What might come next? Also… she’s super in the right for being infuriated at him for taking her voice, abducting her and trapping her there.
At the halfway mark I’m liking this story more and more. It’s much better than the first 3 chapters. One thing I find interesting is how complex the world is with new information still being dropped like mini bombs each chapter. Yet somehow, the author makes it feel simplistic. I’m not sure if this is a positive or negative. On one hand it feels a little superficial yet on the other I appreciate that it isn’t too busy with pages filled with the rules of the land.
At page 205 I’m getting frustrated. Even more things are being added on while little amount so far has been concluded/answered/resolved. It’s like the puzzle just keeps adding pieces over time without anything forming a match yet. Who the heck is the Matchweaver? We already have enough going on without needing to add more parts that make the story more confusing and jumbled.
In chapter 30 I need a motivation for Tiergan. Why is he doing this? What does he get out of trying to claim her?
This is a really long “assemble the team” scene in chapter 35
In chapter 37 the extra power feels a bit too convenient
The first half of the climax scene was a bit chaotic with so many people I couldn’t keep track of who was where and what was being done to which side. Too many characters lacked the focus on what mattered.
So I’m confused on this term “romance,” because I’ve been told in so many places that it needs to have a happily ever after or happy for now ending. This so-called “fantasy romance” did not do that. So… is the book mis-labeled as a genre or am I not understanding that it could be HFN at the end of the series instead of end of the book. This cliffhanger ending has me wanting to read the next book but I don’t feel satisfied in the slightest.