Saturday, 23 January 2021

Book Review: A Deal with the Elf King (Married to Magic #1) by Elise Kova

I plant my feet and refuse to let him make me feel small. I will be the bud that sprouts from the gray rock of this place. I will be the flower that blooms even despite his shadow.

Stumbling across A Deal with the Elf King (Married to Magic #1) by Elise Kova on KindleUnlimited was a bit like finding a FabergĂ© egg at a thrift shop. It's a real hidden treasure. 

A Deal with the Elf King has everything you could hope for in a fantasy novel: a well-developed world, plenty of action, a dash of sexual tension, and heaps of magic. It also has an extremely clever premise and deals with faeries in an original, unexpected way. I'm going through a fae phase at the moment so I've seen a lot of the same themes and images being repeated. This one bucked a lot of those expectations and offered something refreshingly original in their stead. 

I was immediately impressed with the premise of A Deal with the Elf King. Capton sits on the border between Midscape and the Natural World. Every hundred years or so a human woman is taken by the Elf King to be their Human Queen and ensure the next hundred years of prosperity for both their lands. Eventually, you learn that there aren't two but three lands (The Beyond) and, just as the Human Queen travels between the natural and magical worlds, the elf king travels between the magical world and the world of death. 

Even if the rest of the book was awful, that kind of originality would have been enough to earn it at least three stars. 

It wasn't, by the way. The rest of the book was flawless. 

There's so much to love about this story! For starters, the language is as carefully crafted as the setting and just as beautiful, while remaining accessible for reading levels from YA and up. There's some question over whether this one falls into a YA or NA category. I'm going to say it's a strong NA. You've got sex and drugs but nothing is explicit. Of course, I'm nearly forty and I enjoyed every minute of it so maybe we should just call it a kind of one-size-fits all novel. 

The characters are what I love most about A Deal with the Elf King. They're fully developed, believable, and likeable. The Human Queen, Luella, has her own ambitions and goals--and has zero intention of giving them up just because the Elf King arrives to whisk her away. She's no cowering fool but a logical, down-to-earth hero who breaks an age-old curse with nothing but stubbornness and practicality. 

While her counterpart, Eldas, has the whole brooding, tortured soul thing going on at the start, his growth is pronounced and consistent. He's considerate, attentive, and sensitive--and who wouldn't fall in love with a handsome king who offers you both the chance to leave to make your own way and the means to return if you choose? 

The relationship between the Luella and Eldas is so, so sweet and just a little steamy. Neither are in danger of losing themselves to the relationship because they both know their own minds. It sets the target for what a good romance should be. I wouldn't have minded if the sex was more explicit, but it works well as it is. 

I really can't praise A Deal with the Elf King enough. It ticked every box for me, impressing me with its deep, flowing narrative, strong characters, and tender romance. It's also a one-off, which is a nice change these days. (I'm so sick of stories split into several parts, just for the sake of having a series.) There are books set in the same world, though, which I will definitely be looking for. 

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