A Promise of Firenby Amanda Bouchet

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Okay, this is going to be a difficult book to review. I guess I will tell you the gist of the main story, and then I will tell you why I found this book extremely problematic.

A clairvoyant named Cat, who has a very sad and mysterious past that she ran away from, who now works at a magical circus with people she considers her true family, gets kidnapped by a warlord from one of the three kingdoms.

In Thalyria there are three kingdoms:
β€’ Fisa – North, which is where Cat ran away from.
β€’ Tarva – Middle, which is ruled by a brother with a power-hungry sister.
β€’ Sinta – South, which is where this kidnapping warlord’s sister rules with his family.

The warlord’s name is Griffin and he comes for Cat with a few of his men. He claims that his family will need her to rule, so she can tell them who is trustworthy and who is not. In this world there are magical people, Magoi, who normally rule, and non-magical people, Hoi Polli, who normally are slaves and servants. That is, until Griffin and his army took over Sinta. Most magical royal families want nothing to do with them, so the only plausible solution is for him to kidnap Cat and force her to work for his family, while assuring her she will have a better life there with him. He also has no idea about who Cat really is or how powerful she really is.

This book was problematic, because it really blurred the lines of consent. Just because we could see the main protagonist’s inner monologue and know she was attracted to her captor, she always verbally and physically expressed she did not want to be romantically involved, but he wouldn’t stop.

On top of the fact Griffin is physically abusive to Cat, and since they are attached by a “magic rope” and he’s a big strong male, she would constantly fall down and express pain. They would also blatantly physically fight, trying to make the main protagonist look “feisty”, and he would physically try to get her to submit multiple times. The verbal abuse was prevalently there, and just because they were both doing it does not make it okay. He also, like many abusers, would also get physical with things around the victim (punch walls, kick rocks, ect.), and one time, in a cave, it made her comply with another one of his “requests”. Even one of the side characters states she complied under duress. Oh, and let’s not forget that the whole starting plot of this story is that he kidnapped her.

Maybe I’ve read too many “girl falls in love with her captor” stories, but this was problematic and not okay, with me. It just felt very wrong, very bad, and Cat even reminds the reader that she was uprooted from her life and kidnapped constantly. She didn’t have a choice with being taken, and Griffin doesn’t make the rest of their “relationship” feel like a choice, either.

Regardless, this book has grey area consent that feels like rape culture and maybe it won’t bother you, or maybe you’ll be like me and it will completely ruin the story for you. That’s the beauty of reading; everyone will read and interpret things differently, and everyone will feel differently about the same book.

Maybe if you could just forget Cat was kidnapped, pretend that she willingly left her friends and the people she considered family for Griffin and his team, then maybe you could enjoy the story. I mean, it has Greek Gods in it, so I’m sure readers that grew up with Percy Jackson and the Olympians would appreciate that. Unfortunately, I don’t think this book has much plot, either, but that’s because it’s setting up for the rest of the series and trying to make you familiar with this world.

I also feel like I need to state two other disclaimers:
1.) This has a few very sexual scenes; this is a very adult book. The scenes didn’t bother me (even if the content getting to those scenes did) and is tastefully done, but still use caution if you’re going into this thinking the content is YA, because it’s not (I’m looking at you A Court of Mist and Fury).
2.) I felt very weird about Cat’s stance on her body. I understand most girls have problems with their body image, but she was really weird about it. At first when they call her curvy, and talk about how she can barely fit in her pants, she seems fine with it, maybe even proud. Then, throughout the book, she loses weight and it starts to feel like she was really resentful of having curves or being bigger. Her friend later tells her she should eat so she can “fatten up” and she seems appalled. This is a pretty big theme in this book, which is touched on a lot, and it feels pretty bad, I’m not going to lie.

Also, one more rant (because at this point, why the hell not?): This book series is going to be called “The Kingmaker Chronicles”, which makes me actually laugh out loud, because I guess the author, or publisher, or whoever was in charge of that idea, has never heard of one of the most popular fantasy series of all time, The Kingkiller Chronicle by Pat Rothfuss. I know, I know, it’s a little different, but I can’t unsee it and it’s just so cringey to me.

I’ll be honest with you; I wish I would have DNFed this book. I knew at 50% this book was going to get a terrible rating and review from me. The only reason I finished was because I absolutely hate to DNF books I get ARCs of for review. I never want to discourage anyone from reading a book, so these reviews are always heavy on my heart. Hopefully, if you decided to give this one a shot, you will find more joy with it than I did.

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