I thought I’d try a new format for my reviews, so I’ll be touching on the overall feelings before I go into the meat itself, which will be spoilery!
So warning now. But I’ll go through worldbuilding, characters, pace and plot.
A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.
Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.
Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.
My first read of the year!
I wanted so much to like this book, and I did! I just didn’t… love it as much as I wanted to. It was a pleasant read with a non-annoying protagonist, however – herein lies the problem. What many summaries on other pages appeared to give, it didn’t quite deliver, and I’ll go into it in finer detail later. It has a LOT of similarities with the certain other Fae book – blonde protag, hunky love interest, seasonal courts, she’s a painter, she has two sisters, he can turn into animals, there’s dismay between the courts, their love is forbidden, all that stuff, and it doesn’t really do it miles better, but it does it differently.
I enjoyed the fact the fae were gruesome. It felt more traditional in that way, and the fact that it wasn’t as dreamlike as others have portrayed. The ending was strong, if not rushed, but overall I was a little bit underwhelmed. I feel it had so much potential, but never quite lived up to it.
That’s why I’m giving it 3.5 out of 5!
Margaret Rogerson’s writing is lovely to read, and I feel she’s going to grow and grow as a storyteller.
If you don’t want to know about the finer points of the book, don’t read on!
Alright. So there might have been a problem with the synopsis when I was first ‘sold’ this book with online reviews, because they generally cut off at “painting sorrow in his eyes earns her a one way ticket to Autumn Court for trial” – and I was like YES. YES. Give it to me!
But that’s not what I got. The first few chapters held a LOT of promise. I was enamoured by the town of Whimsy, the worldbuilding, the people. The fae were weird and I loved it. I also liked Isobel, her aunt Emma and her sisters. But when Rook spirits her away demanding justice, that’s when it lost the plot. Literally.
They wander the forest. Something called the Wild Hunt and Hemlock (I still don’t get the point of her?) chase them, there’s a rushed explanation of the winter court and someone else and whatever the sickness is. Rook turns into a horse to escape cause… sure. He then turns up in some other court with some other Barrow Lord, and Isobel dreams of Hemlock for some reason, and when Rook is injured they end up at the Spring Court so Isobel can go home, and… WHAT?
There wasn’t any purpose to it, it was like the main point was to get to Gadfly in the Spring Court so he could surprise the reader with being a traitorous know it all hag, and then to surprise the reader again at the end. It was surface-level. Also as soon as they started making googoo eyes at each other, Rook didn’t have a personality. Neither did Isobel. They’d spent what, a few days together and she was sure she loved him, even though they’d previously sat in silence when she painted him weeks before.
AND not only did she love him she knew exaaaaaaaaaaactly how he’d react to every single thing. “Oho, that’s my Rook!” Please.
The last 53 pages where the climax happened was rushed. It could have been torturous in the sweetest way if they’d just foregone the love story, and the bit with the unnecessary chasing because I still don’t get the point of it, and instead focused more on the danger. Perhaps-even-a trial?! Because a human being on trial for a painting of a human emotion on a fae person, at least to me, is extremely original.
I did actually enjoy the painting of human emotions element to it. I wish I knew what happened to the human-turned-fae-turned-human in the end, how it went for her. But it was so completely rushed at the end it didn’t really hit me with emotions, it sort of weakly traced its fingers over my arm and went “peh”.
That being said, I really liked the basis of what Rogerson did here. I just feel it could have both been longer (300 pages is not enough) and cleaner between him taking her to the court–which they never get to–and the actual point of the story.