Author: Sarah Dalton
Release Date: March 3rd, 2014
Source: Won in a Goodreads Giveaway
Mae never asked to be craft-born. She never wanted that burden.
The realm needs magic again, and the the King of Aegunlund has been waiting for the first craft-born girl to marry his son, Prince Casimir.
In Mae's town of Halts-Walden, the ambitious miller claims his daughter Ellen is craft-born. Mae knows this is a load of hogwash, but she's glad Ellen will have the unfortunate pleasure of becoming queen instead of her. All she has to do is sit back and wait until Casimir and Ellen are married, then she will finally be free of the threat of her fate. But on that day an event so shocking and terrible occurs that Mae finds herself entering the neighbouring cursed forest on a quest she never thought she'd have to follow.
Join Mae as she rides her white stag through the Waerg Woods with a pampered prince at her heels. She's out for revenge and nothing, no one, will get in her way.
Were star ratings tangible, by the end of this book I would have been throwing tiny yellow shapes out my bedroom window, then recollecting them and putting them back in place. I liked this book, I did, but the ending felt less like a cliffhanger, and more like I got shoved off the cliff entirely. Sarah Dalton, how could you do that to me?
I guess we should start at the beginning, though. Mae is craft-born, but she doesn't want to be. She's spent most her life hiding her gift, because if anyone finds out, she will be whisked away to the castle to marry the prince; unlike most girls, the idea just doesn't appeal to her. Luckily, another girl from the village happens to display signs of the craft, and the royal entourage comes to solve Mae's problems forever. Things don't go as planned. She ends up stuck with Prince Cas traversing through the Waerg Woods trying to find his kidnapped bride-to-be, Ellen.
The story is well written for the most part. It had a page-turning quality that let me easily finish this in one sitting, and Mae wasn't a bad narrator. There was a point I was a bit concerned, when Mae's voice shifted suddenly ["Father is obsessed with me book learning. He insists it will better me."] but that cleaned up after awhile. There were also a few formatting problems, which took me a bit off guard. I don't think I got an ARC copy, but my edition may just be early enough those things hadn't been found yet.
Mae wasn't an easy to love narrator, but I don't think she wasn't unlikable. She's spent her life judged and treated poorly by the village she lived next to, and their attitudes only change after the loss of her father. Then Prince Cas is nice to her, but he's also pining after a girl he barely met, which is understandably confusing. Mae is the craft-born, so if the prince knew, it could have been her he fell for. But Mae doesn't want that. She just wants to be free, and to her, her only real friend is Anta her white stag.
The danger in the woods was interesting, but to me it wasn't really original. The fog and the birds definitely felt way too Catching Fire for me, especially since those things stopped once they got to new segments of the woods. There was also some strange disappearance of injuries throughout the book. How did they get nearly bled to death then are suddenly doing okay? I didn't feel like it was ever explained well enough for me. The scene with the natives felt a little cheesy, and I still don't really understand what happened with the Sleeping Willow. I couldn't read the in-book map so part of me was also lost as far as the setting went.
To be honest, I think the twists at the end are what I enjoyed the most. The woods, as adventurous as they were, felt a bit common, but the tension at the castle really drew me in. The ending, as much as I complain, was really a great turn for this book, and it helps set it apart from other similarly plotted novels (such as The Selection which was a recent release, and The Goose Girl which is just one of my favorites) I think the sequel has a chance to really shine, so fingers crossed, it will carry the strengths from this book and move forward.