R E V I E W – B O O K
“My heart and head were tangled in an endless knot. And I’d be damned if I let my heart win.”
Written from dual perspectives of Alac and Mara’s, The Stolen Kingdom by Jillian Boehme is a story of Maralyth, a winemaker’s daughter and her secret. Born with a magical power that most people believed was lost long ago, she uses it to help the vineyard. However, when others learn of this secret, Mara’s entire life turns upside down as she is titled as the rightful heir to a mysterious throne. With her life and the lives of those she loves in danger, Mara has no choice but to accept the throne and become a better ruler than the current arrogant and brutal king. Gradually, her feelings start to change when faced with the harsh realities of the coup and an encounter with a handsome and kind prince.
Writing a book that focuses on the thoughts and feelings of more than one character can be tricky, as dual perspectives are not always the simplest to understand. Yet, the fact that you really get to understand both Alac and Mara, as well as their motivations, desires, concerns, et cetera — all separately, truly makes this novel enjoyable. Mara is fierce, strong, and kind whereas Alac is sincere and honourable. He cares about the people and will not fall for power if it means harming others. I think the dual perspectives allow for an in-depth and honest view of both Mara and Alac. It also shows how similar and well-suited they are.
The enemies-to-lovers trope in this story is not your usual feisty ones. Instead, the romance between the two characters is quite predictable. Usually, when we see a female protagonist falling for her male counterpart from the enemies’ side, we tend to expect banters, fights, and slow burn romances. We also expect them to have striking differences in their personalities through which they will assert the idea that “opposites attract and its very alluring”.
However, in this book, the author showed them as quite similar to each other from the very beginning. Firstly, both Mara and Alac are smart, brave, and kind. Moreover, they both have a strong interest in winemaking. They are also trapped in their current situations where Alac is surrounded by greedy people who thirst for power (and magic), and Mara is forced to be part of a coup attempt and her actions are controlled by those who want to usurp the throne.
The fear, the uncertainty, and the feelings of entrapment attract the characters towards each other and they feel as though they could be themselves with each other — which is all but impossible in their world of political intrigue and manipulation.
Apart from the fairy-tale-like chemistry between the characters, the book also has stunning and vivid imageries. I particularly admired the bird imagery, especially in relation to Mara, who frequently feels caged and longs for freedom.
“No creature wants to be caught, no matter how fine the net.”
As a literature major, who is obsessed with deciphering imageries, I took some time to analyse this particular scene wherein Mara is served a tray of food with a beautiful bird in the center. My interpretation of this scene is that this bird, served up on a shiny platter, is similar to Mara, who is being trained and presented (not on a shiny platter but in shiny and new clothing) as the perfect heir. Later in the same scene, Mara describes the bed in her kidnapper’s home as “a nest of comfort in the midst of a nightmare”. This evokes such strong bird imagery and feelings of entrapment, and it highlights Mara’s fear, helplessness, and desire for freedom.
I also loved the magic systems presented in the book. My favourite magic systems are the ones tied to the land, tied to a Kingdom, because they not only make sense to me but add so much to the richness of the world building.
To conclude, I really enjoyed this standalone fantasy and think it will appeal to readers who like the genre in general and/or books with cool magic systems and political drama. I will rate this book, a 4.5 out of 5.
Tasnia is a proud Slytherin who loves binging on poetry and graphic novels in her free time.