Friday, 8 November 2013

The Flower of Isbelline by Heidi Garrett

Publication date: 1 December 2012
Published by: Half-Faerie Publishing
Fantasy (YA)

The Flower of Isbelline is the second book in the series Queen of the Realm of Faerie.  I very much enjoyed the first book, Nandana’s Mark, so I looked forward to reading this one, which I received from the author in exchange for an honest review, along with the Dragon Carnivale (Book 3) - review to follow.

In my review of the first book I started by commenting on the cover.   This one has had a few cover designs and I would say the one shown here looks very much the part (i.e. the cover of a YA Fantasy novel that conveys key elements of its story). 

The story continues from the first book.  There is very little going back to summarise the events in Nandana’s Mark (which is a good thing in my view), so you would need to read book 1 to follow the story.  The main protagonist is Melia, a half-faerie (half-human), who is determined to save her younger sister, Plantine, from marrying Lord Goring who intends to do so for purely selfish reasons – to use Plantine as a vessel for incarnating Umbra, something Melia and her band of friends are determined not to let happen...

One of the problems I had with Nandana’s Mark was that I found that, in parts, it lacked clarity and was a bit confusing.  I would say that this has been addressed in book 2 since I found it much more straight-forward and therefore easier to follow.  Like the first one, there is a lot of good stuff in this book that mirrors real life.  For me the sisters (Plantine, Melia and Mellusine) are casualties of a dysfunctional family and it is mostly about that.  Here is a family that is about to come together for a wedding and you sense as it approaches that it is going to be fraught with disaster and heartache.  The problem is that, if anything, it focuses too much on the family and the wedding and reads much less like a fairy tale than the previous one.  After the wedding it does go back to being a fairy tale with the attempted incarnation of Umbra and the events that follow.

If I am going to be honest I would have to say that I was disappointed with this novel. Perhaps the problem is that I consider Nandana's Mark to be such a good debut, so  I set the bar high for this one and, for me, it did not have the same impact.Not because of the above mentioned point (the family story is very good) but because I had an issue with the writing style.  It felt rushed to me.

Characters become redundant, especially the males.  There is a big chunk of the book when some of the key characters (Tuck, Ryder and Sinjin) are out of the picture and their absence is problematic.  (It is great that the female characters are strong and heroic, but I would say the key male characters get a raw deal, and that Tuck in particular is more like a prop than a character.)

I had trouble believing the romance between Ryder and Melia.  It felt artificial and unconvincing, which left me indifferent as to whether they got together or not.

The American author, Richard Ford, once said in an interview that experience has taught him to ‘stay in a book’ for as long as is necessary and that this is a mistake that inexperienced authors make (and I say this as an inexperienced author who makes my fair share of mistakes).  I do not know how long it took Heidi to write this novel. I can only say that, to me, it reads like she should have stayed in it longer.

That said, The Flower of Isbelline still stands above most of the self-published works I have read recently. (And believe me I have read a lot of them in the past few months.)

It has an average score of 3.96 out of 5 on Goodreads, higher than Nandana's Mark, which suggests it has a lot of appeal.

I'll be reviewing The Dragon Carnivale next ...

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