Author: Saara El-Arifi
Series: Faebound (book 1)
Released: 2024-01-18
Publisher: Harper Voyager


I want to give two big warnings to anyone looking to read this book:

1) This is more of a romance/mystery than action-adventure. The pace doesn’t drag, but it is slower by design. It’s more romance than anything else, and its main plot points are politics/subterfuge.

2) The romance is bad. There are two main romance lines, and both happen way too fast for the circumstances they’re set in. It all feels like the author believed there had to be sex in this book for people to read it (thanks a lot, booktok), so everything was rushed to get some intimate scenes in.

Number 2 is the more frustrating, because both romances have easy fixes: for Yeeran, lust is just as effective a reason as love, and quite frankly, sometimes it’s hotter when the two people going at it hate each other. Grudging respect would have brought about the same endgame as “love” did, and would have left the second book open for a complicated, intriguing relationship to keep forming.

Lettle’s romance line would have been fine if she had simply known the man for a long time before the events of the book. That one change would make a world of difference.

All complaints about the romances aside, the rest of the book is done well. I knew it was going to be a slower-paced story from how little occurred in each of the first few chapters while still moving the story steadily along. This is not deep POV, we’re privy to what the character is thinking about events at the time, and for the most part, that’s it. It’s enough to get attached to the characters as narrators of their own story lines, but not to really get into their heads or feel much for them (another nail in the coffin of the romance lines).

Faebound is a story about uncovering past secrets and deciphering current prophecies in preparation for future bloodshed. Most of the hints the author leaves are easy to pick up on, and while a few things may keep a reader guessing until the end, it’s likely said reader will understand the significance of something well before the characters. It also has its share of frustrations; characters make decisions one would not expect these characters to make, and it’s easy to see the doom those decisions spell from a mile away.

Perhaps the biggest frustration, though, is Yeeran’s continued obsession with her previous lover. Despite bearing witness daily to the horrendous conditions said lover steadfastly holds their tribe in, Yeeran continues to be a cruelty apologist even after literally every other character in the book warns her to open her eyes. It’s easy to see why the “youngest Colonel in Waning tribe history” was also only a Colonel for the shortest time in history…she’s not very good at using her brain.

Unfortunately, despite the author painting the character as being excellent at being a soldier and a leader, it’s very easy to begin wondering from her behavior throughout the story if Yeeran’s rise in ranks wasn’t simply because of who she was sleeping with. By the end of the book, we can already guess just what’s going to happen in the sequel, because Yeeran isn’t able to string together two obvious facts to see a foregone conclusion and is the only one unable to see where her chosen course of action will lead.

Overall, Faebound is neither deep nor exciting. But with its steady pace, clear writing, interesting world, and entertaining story arc, it’s a very good book.

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