An Heir Comes to Rise [Review]

An Heir Comes to Rise

by C. C. Penaranda
Lumarias Press, 2021

This book was one of a bundle I got for free – five romantic fantasies, all of them self-published, clearly some sort of cooperative deal between the authors — it was advertised on the r/fantasyromace subreddit.They all seemed typical of what’s available these days so I thought I’d read one.

Cover-wise, the books all  looked good, though the art didn’t have the spark and individualism of professionally published book covers. The blurbs, too, were competently written. But in the end it all comes down to how well the first pages grab a reader. This is the primary skill a novel writer needs, and if they can’t do that, they will never be successful.

A SWORD . . . 

In the impoverished outer town of a kingdom where fae outrank humans, Faythe, an orphan with a talent for swordplay, knows the importance of keeping her head down around the fae patrol. She and best friend Jakon long for a better life, and her desire to swing her sword in combat may bring the purpose and coin she’s yearned for.

Par for the course. I can’t fault it.

But what got me reading this book was the first 2,000 or so words, which were genial, undemanding, and hooked me with the characters. Rather the interaction between the young adult characters, who were all friends and related to each other in a natural way. Plus, the world was intriguing. Fae rule the city the humans live in, but a growing conflict with another kingdom has them all on alert for spies and treachery. Humans are the lower class of this world and thus tempted to betray their Fae rulers by passing along strategic information to the enemies. Not a bad setup.

It’s also revealed the main female character (FMC in Romantasy parlance) has the ability to Nightwalk, which means entering others’ minds in her sleep and reviewing their memories as they dream. She thinks it’s merely nightmares, until a being she meets in this state informs her otherwise. Only the fae can Nightwalk, which they mainly use for nefarious doings, so having this ability is alarming to her. Later, in real life, she meets the being who informed her. He’s a Fae Lord, a Captain of their city guard, and his name is Nik. He wants to teach her how to control her powers.

(The story began to lose me there. I mean, a Fae named Nik?)

Nevertheless the setup was promising so I continued for about 40% of the book.

The writing wasn’t great. There were plenty of questionable word choices, like “burning inferno” “The tempo finally slowed, coming to its final chapter” (this was describing music) and “she picked at an apple to keep her stomach at bay.” The prose was serviceable but didn’t sing.

As with many YA and NA fantasies the setting was lip service. The characters have jobs they must get to, like normal folk; they have apartment-hovels with kitchen counters, like normal folk. They are not worried about where their food or clothing is coming from. Gowns are easily available in this impoverished town, as are books. The FMC even has a pocket watch, which would be a precious commodity in a 14th century world like this. There’s another bit where her best friend casually buys her a custom-made fine sword for her birthday, which would be another extreme rarity and out of reach for peasants. Not only that, modern words and phrases were used freely: “dancing the tango” “as if she were a planet and it was her stratosphere” “male-ego dominance bullshit.” The fantasy writer in me expecting verisimilitude cringed.

(Humans are supposed to be under the boots of the fae here, yet the fae allow them to make weapons and practice swordplay, a handy recipe for armed rebellion. What kind of evil overlords do that?)

The writer also had a problem describing things with any kind of originality. Hunky Fae Nik was described as tall and broad with short black hair and green eyes. I mean, he’s an alien being, a fae. Surely there’s something about him that’s different from a human man, however graceful and handsome? The author barely gave him pointy ears.

This kind of minimal description seems very fanfic-like to me, like the author knows readers have likely devoured dozens of fae books before so she doesn’t bother to go into fine detail or the touches that would make her particular brand of fae stick out. It’s lazy writing. A lot of the other details struck me in the same way. There was nothing original about them, like the author was parroting character descriptions gleaned elsewhere… an elsewhere most likely the mega-popular A Court of Thorns of Roses series. She even copied the extremely annoying habit of describing the fae men as “males.”

Another equally annoying habit was spelling out the FMC’s mental state at every turn, as if the reader couldn’t grok to it themselves from the events of the books. “Her mind was a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions” “Her heart beat a wild frenzy as desire pooled at her core” “looked to him wide-eyed while her mind reeled”. Panic rises, nerves rattle, hearts crack. This was a large part of why I stopped reading; I got tired of being spoon-fed.

Other times the writing soared off into overwritten heaven: “Forced to tune in to the monotone voices of pompous fae nobles, Nik’s eyes strained against the weight of boredom.” Plus points for the anachronism of tune in.

The setup was done well enough that I continued to read. But after many chapters, almost half of the book, the plot wasn’t going anywhere. The FMC hangs around, thinks about her deceased mother, has lessons from Nik in an enchanted forest, is alternately confused, defiant, and sorrowful, and there’s no goal or conflict or anything driving her. When, for no reason, she takes up a friend’s offer to compete in sword fights for money in the basement of a local inn, I left off. The good things in the book didn’t balance out the flaws anymore.

So, as a first impression, it was less than awesome.

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