Rating: 4/5 Swords
Warning: Contains Mild Spoilers
Asunder is book one in Liz Steinworth’s Vatan Chronicles. It is a novel with stubborn princesses, chivalrous and dangerous thieves, and, as Liz terms it, a heck of a lot of #Roguemance. After seeing Liz’s paintings and drawings inspired by the scenes she wrote in her book, on Instagram, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy and see for myself what this #Rougemance was all about.
Asunder begins with Alden, a rather noble thief, and the rest of the thieves guild he’s apart of sabotaging what looks like a nobleman’s carriage. But what Alden isn’t prepared for is learning that the noble person they’re supposed to capture for their employer is none other than Princess Mayli. This resonates deep with Alden, because he knows the Princess could be sold off – or worse – and the already precarious kingdoms would fall into disrepair.
Tied to an inner sense of duty and nobility, Alden defies his guild and steals Mayli away in the dead of night, bringing it upon himself to take her home. The stakes will be high, especially once the thieves guild figures out what he’s done, but he’s willing to face whatever necessary so the princess doesn’t have to suffer.
Mayli, on the other hand, proves to be more of a challenge than Alden bargained for. Having thought he’d be dealing with a delicate girl, he is quick to learn that Mayli is as headstrong as she is stubborn. She doesn’t trust him in the least, and after getting captured, Alden can’t blame her. But throughout their extensive journey, he tries to prove to her that not only can she trust him, but that he will protect her at any cost.
But all is not as it seems. The kingdoms are still uneasy after the murder of Mayli’s mother, and there is call for a new King. If Mayli doesn’t get returned to her kingdom soon, there could be a second war. Mayli and Alden form an uneasy friendship that threatens to become something more, except Alden has a past to hide that he can’t let Mayli get too close to. And with the thieves guild hot on their trail, getting Mayli back to her home safely – and alive – could prove to be a challenge the noble thief cannot handle.
There is so much I enjoyed about Liz’s debut novel! First and foremost, she writes as though she’s painting a picture. As an incredibly talented artist, this seems more than fitting! Truly, her scenery details were some of the strongest ones I’ve ever read. It felt like I was there, immersed in her story world in that moment, feeling the sun on my face or sneezing at the dust or inhaling the scent of stew or tasting Brimley tea.
Another thing I enjoyed about Asunder was the growing #Rougemance between Mayli and Alden. I actually didn’t enjoy it at first – more on that in a moment – but by a certain point in the book, I realized I totally shipped them and I wanted them together more than anything.
I also really enjoyed Kira’s character in Asunder. Kira is a member of the thieves guild and one of Alden’s closest friends. I thought she was just going to be a minor character that was there in the beginning and gone once she filled her purpose, but she actually had a vital role to play throughout the rest of the book. She reminded me of a medieval-ish Miriam (one of my characters from Smoke and Mirrors), and I was able to connect with her a lot because of that. Her devotion to Alden is also really admirable.
While there was a lot that I did enjoy, there were a few things that I wish had been different or strengthened in Asunder. I’ve said it multiple times, but I’m a very character-driven writer. It is vital to me to make sure that each character has their own voice and their own personality so they don’t sound the same. It’s also vital to make sure they don’t say or do anything unrealistic. Unfortunately, there were points in Asunder where I felt the characters reacted in the same ways just because they were all together and the author didn’t want to write out their varying reactions. There were also parts that were unrealistic – sometimes the characters were sneering or completely pissed off at the other, and by the next paragraph, they were snuggling or playing or teasing each other. I felt like, if the author wanted to show their change of moods, it should have been executed after a longer time frame.
I also want to discuss for a quick second what I meant by I didn’t enjoy Mayli and Alden’s romance right away. I didn’t enjoy it right away because shortly after Mayli begins to trust Alden, she starts flirting with him. Shortly after she begins flirting with him, Alden starts showing off his feelings for her. I was getting really worried because it was starting to play out like an instantly-in-love story line, and that didn’t make sense for what the characters have been through and are going through during the story. I continued to be worried about this until I reached a particular part of the story that I cannot go into too much detail about because of spoilers and it just ALL SUDDENLY MADE SENSE! Instantly I was able to understand why the author had made their progressing relationship that way, and then I was able to look back and see all of the subtle foreshadowing that led up to this one part. So while at first I didn’t like the budding romance at first, I was 100% invested and excited about it after reaching the part. Huge kudos to Liz for being able to pull off something so subtle. She handled it in a way that most debut authors would never be able to. I was incredibly impressed!
Overall, I LOVED this book and I am so, so ready for book 2! And clearly the moral of this blog post is that you should read it too. You can find it on Amazon or on Liz’s website: http://www.theartofliz.com/
I would like to add here, depending on your reading sensitivity, there is some strong language and mature scenes that you should be aware of. 🙂
Also, be on the lookout for my post next week! I was honored to get to interview Liz and I’ll be sharing that interview next Saturday. You’ll get to learn more about Asunder, as well as more about the really sweet and talented author behind it!
Have you read Asunder? What were your thoughts?