Saturday, August 13, 2016

Series Saturday Review: Broken Dove by Kristen Ashley

Series:     Fantasyland #4
Pub. Date:Dec. 27, 2013
Length:604 pages

I have been hoarding this book for quite a while, keeping it in reserve for when I got into a dreaded reading slump. It's not easy when you know you have an unread Kristen Ashley book, but its also a bit comforting to know that you have something waiting in the wings that you are almost guaranteed to love. Luckily I haven't had one of those really bad reading slumps this year, so I was able to move forward with this one in prep for the release of Midnight Soul (on the blog Aug. 15th).

Apollo Ulfr is the master strategist for Queen Aurora and Lunwyn. As we saw at the end of Fantastical, Apollo gave a fortune in Sjofn Diamonds to Valentine in payment for her to bring the real-world twin of his deceased wife (Ilsa) to Fantasyland. Apollo's Ilsa passed away six or so years ago from a terminal illness. Having been deeply in love with Ilsa, Apollo has been grieving for her a very long time. He feels guilty that he couldn't save her, and guilty that he kept their son from seeing her in her wasted and weakened condition. But once he has the other Ilsa, he quickly sees that it may not be easy to handle getting what you wished for.

Ilsa of the real-world is a tortured heroine stemming from her marriage to the Apollo "Pol" Ulfr of her world. She has been on the run and in hiding from Pol for several years, as he is an extremely violent crime boss. To say that Ilsa is not quite comfortable winding up in Fantasyland with her husband's twin is an understatement... but it worked out that he kind of abandoned her once she is there. That's not to say that things do not continue to be somewhat weird for Ilsa - she is the spitting image of his dead wife after all. To distinguish herself, Ilsa becomes know as Maddie in Fantasyland and she decides to reinvent herself and make the most of her escape from Pol. I enjoyed seeing her personality come out free of the restrictive confines of being on the run.

The romance between Apollo and Maddie was somewhat slow to build, mainly because Apollo is a jerk in the beginning. But this gave us time to get to know Maddie and enjoy her introduction to Fantasyland. The real-world characters' introduction to Fantasyland is one of my favorite parts of this series. Once Apollo is able to see Maddie as her own person, things between them pick up speed and progress at a rapid clip. I liked that there was not much back and forth between them once this occurred as I like to see the relationship continue to build (rather than taking 2 steps forward and 1 step back). Things definitely got steamy between the pair, there was a lot of chemistry and Apollo was not afraid to get a little dirty or dominant with Maddie. There were a few moments when Apollo was a jerk or overly harsh, and I was so wrapped up in Maddie's character that I felt the hurt and conflict right along with her. However, it was a beautiful thing to see Maddie come out of her shell and stand up for herself when the time came.

The non-romance plot aspects of this installment were fabulous. Things come to a head with Baldur, Cora the Exquisite and Minerva - villains from the prior books of the series. I liked how the three baddies joined together in this scheme, with help from a couple of evil witches from Hawkvale. The joint effort multiplied the suspense and made for a more explosive culmination. I loved seeing all our prior heroes and heroines work together to defeat the combined foe... particularly because I can't quite get enough of Dax Lahn.

There were also some great new secondary characters in Broken Dove. Apollo's children, particularly his daughter, were fabulous. There is a cameo from real-world Noctorno "Noc" Hawthorne, who is our hero in the next book. Franka Drakkar continues to be a viper, but we start to see that she may have another side in this book. Maddie's guard, especially Derrick and Achilles, were charming and added a special something to the story. I would not mind at all seeing additional Fantasyland books with some of these characters... but I think I'm out of luck on that front.

Stay tuned for the next review of this series on Monday, August 15th!