Author: Margaret Rogerson.
A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.
Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.
Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.
The insta-love is strong with this one.
Isobel, our main character, is by all accounts a clever, independent kid who’s delt with fae her whole life. She knows how to grit her teeth and smile politely for each and every one; she knows how to lay out her payment request hard and fast and no room for tricks; and above all, she knows better than to ever, ever trust a faery.
Why she breaks all three of these rules within the first couple of chapters, then, is beyond me. The moment Rook, the Autumn Court’s fae prince, walks in the door you just know they’re going to end up together, despite the fact that fae aren’t supposed to feel emotion and Isobel isn’t supposed to fall for their glamour. The first time she explicitly wonders if she’s in love with him we’ve seen them speak to each other a total of, oh, about four times I’d say. (On screen. There’s a bit more meeting going on off-screen, but Isobel doesn’t mention any interesting conversations or unexpected connections happening there.)
Then things go south, and in the space of three days Rook goes from possibly-in-love-with-her to absolutely-furious-kidnapping-her and into nearly-dead-and-relying-on-her.
The upside? I laughed a lot through the book. Rook’s Arrogant Fae Prince attitude isn’t exactly new, (I’ve seen a lot of comparisons to A Court of Thorns and Roses, for example), but it can be pretty darn funny – especially combined with a few minor things. Like the fact that fae are compelled by rules of courtesy to return every bow and curtsy. I don’t think all the funny scenes were meant to be funny, but there they were. There were some pretty darn good bits of description somewhere around the three-quarters point, too. A veritable skin-crawling scene at a fae banquet is going to stick in my head for sometime. The forest beasts were not quite as terrifying as they wanted to be, but they were trying – and I thought they were trying in the right direction.
Sadly, we’re back to downsides at the ending, which was oddly anticlimatic and left a bunch of plot threads dangling loose.
Sexual Content: Woman “undoing buttons toward his waist without regard for his modesty” to check a man’s wound; he “seemed interested” until he caught sight of his own wound, at which point he insisted on putting the shirt back on. Intense kissing, one character holding the other. When a transformation spell is undone, a young woman changes from animal back to human in her rescuer’s arms and is now naked. (She hastens to get dressed.)
Language: 6 scatological terms, 2 d***, 2 hell, 1 derogatory term
Violence: Character chased by a fae beast, which then crumbles in front of her in an odd form of death. Character cuts his hand open to use blood in magic. Two characters fight a fae-beast, trying to stab it; one of them is badly gashed, and the beast appears to eat most of a flock of ravens that try to help them, before it is finally killed by growing thorns. One character is enchanted into a rabbit and chased around. One incident of bodily mutation (without much description):