Review: Brightly Woven

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Publisher: Edgemont USA

Series: n/a

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Rating:  3.5/5 

Recommendation: Fantasy Lovers ages 13+

From Goodreads:

When Wayland North brings rain to a region that’s been dry for over ten years, he’s promised anything he’d like as a reward. He chooses the village elder’s daughter, sixteen-year-old Sydelle Mirabel, who is a skilled weaver and has an unusual knack for repairing his magical cloaks. Though Sydelle has dreamt of escaping her home, she’s hurt that her parents relinquish her so freely and finds herself awed and afraid of the slightly ragtag wizard who is unlike any of the men of magic in the tales she’s heard. Still, she is drawn to this mysterious man who is fiercely protective of her and so reluctant to share his own past.

The pair rushes toward the capital, intent to stop an imminent war, pursued by Reuel Dorwan (a dark wizard who has taken a keen interest in Sydelle) and plagued by unusually wild weather. But the sudden earthquakes and freak snowstorms may not be a coincidence. As Sydelle discovers North’s dark secret and the reason for his interest in her and learns to master her own mysterious power, it becomes increasingly clear that the fate of the kingdom rests in her fingertips. She will either be a savior, weaving together the frayed bonds between Saldorra and Auster, or the disastrous force that destroys both kingdoms forever.

You have no idea how much I wanted to give this book all the SRUTs. All of them. If I could give North and Syd and their adorable relationship and their banter 5/5 I totally would and then I would be quiet and watch them talk and save each other. However, since this book has an actual plot beyond North and Syd are cute, it gets 3.5 for a plot that didn’t get fully realized and then spun wildly out of control.

The Good-

  • Did I mention North and Syd and how they are adorable? If not let me just assure you, I love them both with all of what’s left of my soul after far too many fictional couples have stomped all over it. They are a great example of a slow burn romance, lots of buildup, lots of getting to know each other, lots of adorable banter and saving each other and learning about each other as people. There is no ‘I’m hot, you’re hot, bam we’re in love’ here. It is glorious.
  • Syd is a great heroine, strong, smart, and unwilling to just go along for the ride. Syd looks for reasons to trust North and everyone else around her instead of just following blindly, she has a mission and is dedicated to it, and she doesn’t shy away from saving other people even if that puts her in danger.
  • I really liked the world Bracken created; the politics, the cities, the nature and rules of the magic. All of it kept me interested throughout.
  • The secondary characters; there was some unevenness there, with some of the secondary characters feeling a little flat or unevenly written (feeling well-rounded in some instances and lifeless in others). But for the most part I enjoyed the secondary characters and wanted to know more about them.

The Bad-

  • The motivating factor for 3/4 of the book is getting North and Syd to the capital to report on what North has found and prevent war. They’re also being chased by a murderous wizard with mysterious links to North’s past and a single minded obsession with stopping North and taking Syd. Sounds interesting, but the author never conveyed the sense of urgency you’d expect from a race against time situation, the tension needed to make the reader really care about this quest wasn’t there.
  • Added to that- the political situation, while discussed several times, seemed to never really get adequately clarified or explained. Not knowing all of the players and politics and how they related to the mission at hand just left me feeling a little lost for some of the book.
  • The end, or should I say last 1/4; lacking the build-up in the first 3/4 of the book the author uses the last 1/4 to introduce a whole new slew of complications, we find out the mystery of Syd and her super special specialness only to have her drawn into more intrigue. Throw in a prophesy that wasn’t even mentioned in the first part of the book, new enemies, new complications, and a much closer look at the country they were trying to prevent war with, and you have just too many threads to neatly and satisfactorily tied up.
  • The author does wrap everything up (or everything that can be wrapped), as this is, it seems, intended to be a stand alone (although there could easily be a sequel). It just seemed very rushed with all of the plot-lines thrown together at then end and lack of adequate development of them earlier. Coming in at 354 pages I would gladly have read 50-100 more pages if it had given the author time to really explore and flesh out her complicated plot. The romance and relationships were built beautifully, but the politics suffered.

Overall- This book is worth a read, and I will probably read it again for the well done relationship narrative. Just don’t expect to be blown away the action and intrigue. I would definitely read the author again, Brightly Woven is only her second novel and with some work I think she could be a favorite.

If you like YA Fantasy with political intrigue I recommend the Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima.

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