The Beholder by Anna Bright
This is Linz, on my way to steal your book for reviewing from Sam *cackles* *buries her under a pile of ARCs* (Sam actually got this in Fairyloot but I got a copy from the library)
What it’s about (from Goodreads): Selah has waited her whole life for a happily ever after. As the only daughter of the leader of Potomac, she knows her duty is to find the perfect match, a partner who will help secure the future of her people. Now that day has finally come.
But after an excruciatingly public rejection from her closest childhood friend, Selah’s stepmother suggests an unthinkable solution: Selah must set sail across the Atlantic, where a series of potential suitors awaits—and if she doesn’t come home engaged, she shouldn’t come home at all.
From English castle gardens to the fjords of Norge, and under the eye of the dreaded Imperiya Yotne, Selah’s quest will be the journey of a lifetime. But her stepmother’s schemes aren’t the only secrets hiding belowdecks…and the stakes of her voyage may be higher than any happy ending.
What I drank: Goddamn a lot of white wine from book club 2 (btw The Simoqin Prophecies which i FINSIHED is … interesting)
Thoughts: So this is actually an alt-history book but also kind of fantasy fairy tale– basically england started colonizign america and then had to withdraw before things get too far, so like NY and Savannah exist, but they’re kind of city states? Unclear. and the ctiystate selah is from is Potomoac, which, fine. Potomac is a thing, except potomac is a misspelling of a native american tribe and uhhhhh where are the native americans my dude? you can’t set something in the area where the tribes from, use the tribes name, and then not factor tyhe indiginous people into the story. or like, there’s a character in potomac that’s black–so did slavery happen? is slavery abolished aht taht point? i have no clue bc we never get a time period to work with. and then i truly lost my shit when somehow radio technology is introduced?! they dont have cars but somehow we have the technology at this point to manufacutre pieces for a RADIO TRANSMITTER and science has evolved that we’ve even thoguht of inventing the radio?
kind of related to this, the crew of selah’s boat – like all the members have names of famous storytellers (like come on will grimm? homer?), and they’re all wildly international (so the diversity felt just a little forced from my pOV), and i think it’s supposed to weave into this whole concept of selah’s love of storytelling and fairy tales, and that elements from some fairy tale pop up in the story, but like…it’s heavily used while they’re sailing and then itjust kind of gets dropped when they go to england?
all of it just distracts from the story, WHICH IS PRETTY GOOD if a little predictable. selah’s a mostly sympatehtic (if naive) character and you really feel for her. her struggles to prove her self both at home and abroad investment-worthy, and all the locations are beautifully described. the love stories develop fast for all characters but like, it scans, because of the timeline selah and the crew are working with. the concept of the story is good and the plot is good, but it’s just not well exectued. and the thing is, like, Bright is far from being the only author to cherrypick history and techology and mytholgy, but when you’ve seen it done well it’s hard to then goa nd read something like this. I really wish this had just gone full fantasty or full alt-history.
What I gave it: 2.75 stars
What I’d pair it with: semisweet rose