The Blackhearts are rumoured to be the descendants of Hansel and Gretel; a family who protects the Frontier from rogue fae. Kit only discovered she was part of this legacy when she was fifteen and her grandmother died. A year later, she finds herself in the middle of fae politics, and on the edge of war, when the Prince of Alba turns up on her doorstep.
The opening chapter sees Kit stalking a boy at high school, a contemporary setting with a hint of other. But soon the story moves away from that and she’s running across the country, facing mortal peril and discovering the Otherwhere. It’s a lot less urban fantasy than I was expecting; Kit doesn’t nearly have enough real world problems and lives her life in a large, secluded house. There’s plenty of time spent in Devon and London, yet it often felt like another world. I really liked the little diversions to viewpoints in the Otherwhere and started to want to know more about their history. It’s inevitable that the two worlds will collide.
Many chapters start with a snippet of information taken from the archives of the HMDSDI or the Blackheart Bestiarium. I do quite like this technique for a first person narrative in a world different to ours, as it is handy to pass over information that the narrator might not know. However, in addition to this, there is a lot of explanation given through dialogue. Kit’s not known her heritage for very long so she needs to be told a lot and in some cases the dialogue turns into a bit of a monologue. I felt this got in the way of getting to know Kit a bit. There’s a whole load of interesting world-building but I never felt much emotion towards her.
There is a romance, for most of the book it feel like a small thing. Kit quite fancies the handsome prince. Fair enough. At one point their relationship becomes pivotal to the plot however something was missing. It’s not instalove but it might well as be. I kind of wish there was some other motivation for the bits that are otherwise really good and exciting.
I don’t want to sound like I didn’t enjoy Banished; I did. It’s often the case with fantasy that world-building takes a while and I found it much pacier in the second half. I liked the mythology weaved in with elements of fairy tales but there’s a lot of it. And for me, it sometimes got in the way of the characters, who I so dearly wanted to know more about. I think I’d like Kit, if I got to know her better.
As a debut novel and start of a new series, it holds plenty of promise and I will be interested to see where the story goes next.
Book Source: World Fantasy Con freebie
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