Clash of Kingdoms #1
by Erin Summerill
Published on December 27, 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.
However, it’s not so simple.
The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.
I was prepared going into Ever the Hunted to love it. To want to buy ALL the copies because I wouldn’t be able to get enough. So when I started reading and put it down within a few chapters, I knew that dream was going to be shattered.
This YA fantasy is every book I’ve read before. I had the same issues with Shadow Fall in the YA dystopian genre so maybe it’s just not a good reading year for me. Ever the Hunted features your standard young adult heroine: she considers herself to be average and plain but all the guys think she’s beautiful, has a special secret power, the “woe is me, everyone hates me” complex, and all those moments where she’s supposed to look like a badass but fails. Britta is one special little snowflake.
But, you know, tropes aren’t all bad. There’s a reason we read them over and over. My problem was that not only is Britta all sorts of cliche, she’s also the narrator. Ever the Hunted is told in first person, present tense, so you’re constantly in her head. And she’s whiny. I got so frustrated with how everything was so easy for her that I didn’t have a character to root for. Plus, I thought she was a tad stupid. “I have the ability to sense truths and heal and feel when Cohen’s in trouble but hey, I probably don’t have magic.” Yeah… you’re a smart cookie, aren’t you?
Combined with my dislike of the protagonist, the pacing just wasn’t working for me. It either moved sluggishly through all the details I could’ve done without or too quickly through the sections I wanted more detail about. There’s supposedly all this tension around who her father’s murderer is and friction between the two countries (which never made sense to me to begin with, I think you get a paragraph explaining that whole conflict?). Yet half the book Britta spent swooning over Cohen. Literally every time he was around. She kept smelling him. It got weird. Wasn’t a fan.
Also a moment of a hinted love triangle, as if it was in the original draft but half of it got cut later on. Never understood what made Britta so special to warrant so much attention. Seventeen year old girl who acted ten.
There were also too many convenient events. For example, I’ve mentioned that I don’t exactly find Britta intelligent. But some of that lack of knowledge stems from the fact that everyone knows what’s going on except her. And those big reveals? Yeah, they could’ve been summed up in a single conversation with one person. No need for adventuring and traveling to a whole other country.
There’s a scene where Britta and Lovey McLoveboat are forced to share a room at an inn. It’s a cliche way to continue a slow burn romance. Now usually I see it where the soon-to-be couple either pretends to be married to gain someone’s trust, or one is the prisoner of the other and can’t be let out of sight. Either way, a plot device to get them in close quarters with a typically small single bed. In this case, Britta’s given the excuse that as a lad (she’s cross-dressing) traveling with Cohen, it would be weird to room separately.
Uh, what? I feel like that’s a perfect reason to room separately, especially going by fantasy standards of men rooming on their own.
Just little moments like that kept me from really connecting to the story. I never felt like the world was real, concrete, something I could fall into. The characters felt like their only purpose was to do all the heavy lifting while Britta stood around and looked important. I also just really disliked her so that didn’t help matters.
Debuts this year have been hit-or-miss for me, and this was a miss. I don’t imagine I’ll be reading future books in this series unless reviews prove it gets significantly better, though I may give any other works by the author a try as this book had unrealized potential. Ever the Hunted and I just weren’t meant to be.