Saturday, August 6, 2016

Series Saturday Review: Fantastical by Kristen Ashley

Series:     Fantasyland #3
Pub. Date:Nov. 1, 2011
Publisher:Self-Pub
Length:438 pages

This third installment of the Fantasyland series has more of a fairytale feel than the other books. If it weren't for the adult themes in the story, I could easily see this as a Disney production. The alternate world that Kristen Ashley has created is captivating and easy to picture. Colors abound, animals talk, and there are castles straight out of a fairytale. Ashley doesn't skimp on the descriptions of scenes/settings, clothing and fantastical creatures and it really allows you to immerse yourself in the story.

If you haven't read the earlier books - the gist of the world building is that there are two worlds. Our regular world - mainly Seattle - and a fantasy realm. Each person has a twin in the other realm at birth that is identical in looks, but develop personalities independently. If a twin gets killed in one world - that does not necessitate the other twin's death.

So the twins at issue in this installment are both named Cora Goode. Cora of fantasyland is known as Cora the Exquisite, so I will call her Cora E. for ease of reference. Cora E. is an uppity bitch that no one, and I mean no one, likes. She is demanding and selfish and a spoiled brat. So its unfortunate that our Cora wakes up in this fantasy world where her surroundings are so amazing, but where everyone hates her. Cora is sweet, kind, friendly and outgoing... and she is thrust into an unknown situation where she is believed to be married to Prince Noctorno Hawthorne, a smoking hot warrior prince. Cora was an imminently likable heroine. Her curiosity and awe at fantasyland was infectious and made me want to be there along with her. Unfortunately, Cora unwittingly allows a curse to be set in motion soon after she arrives and she must go on the run with her fantasyland husband, who also hates her.

Prince Noctorno (Tor) Hawthorne of the House of Hawthorne is heir to the Kingdom of Hawkvale. He is a warrior prince that had to conquer parts of his realm and retake them from King Baldur, formerly of the Midlands (and now in exile). Tor is beloved by his people, particularly his warriors who have all retired to his city-state of Bellebryn. At Tor's birth, it was written in the sky that his soulmate, the only woman for him, was Cora Goode. Tor and Cora the Exquisite marry, but it is not a happy union. They live apart and she refuses his bed and the providing of an heir. So not only does Tor hate Cora E., but so do all his people. This makes things extremely difficult for our Cora, even though she is honest and tells Tor the crazy tale about her being from another realm. I liked Tor, but it was touch and go there at first when he didn't believe Cora's parallel world tale. While he set out to be cruel thinking our Cora was Cora E. - he couldn't quite stick to his guns and his sweetness showed through in his actions.

The romance progressed rather quickly, but it didn't have the feel of instalove. Cora had to overcome the prejudice against her due to Cora the Exquisite's reputation, which was not easy. Cora valiantly tried to make the best of her situation, but her feelings continued to be hurt by the treatment she was receiving. Tor had to feel like pond scum when he finally realized she was telling him the truth. Once the couple finally get on the right track, however, Minerva shows back up to derail everything.

The suspense plot in this installment took a back seat to the romance. Minerva was seeking to fulfill a curse involving Tor, his brother Dashiel, Cora and her sister, Rosa. I wish we were told a little more about how the curse worked - I didn't quite understand the goal or how it was thwarted. But, the enemies never are quite vanquished at the end of these stories and their plots will carry forward into future books.

I almost skipped the re-read of this one due to time constraints on my reading schedule - but I am glad that I fit it in now before the release of Midnight Soul. Tor's real world twin, who goes by Noc, was a prominent secondary character in this story, and he will be the hero of Midnight Soul. So this was a good refresher.

Fantasyland