Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Golden Apple by Michelle Diener

The Basics:
The Golden Apple by Michelle Diener
Season Publishing
Book One in the Dark Forest series
Romance, Fantasy
Published March 24, 2014
Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Why I picked up this book:

I really liked the blurb.


Kayla's world has been turned upside-down . . .
Her father has made her the prize in a deadly, impossible tournament, and Kayla has retaliated in the only way she knows how; by choosing her champion beforehand. But taking control of the outcome changes the game completely, and when the real reason behind the strange test becomes apparent, Kayla realizes not just her life, but her entire kingdom is at stake.
Rane's honor is torn in two...
In order to save his brother, Rane will do whatever he has to--including deceive and betray a princess. He knew nothing about this tournament would be easy, but when it turns into a deeper, far more sinister game, Rane is forced to see it through to the end, or leave his brother at the mercy of their enemy.
Now their fates are entwined, and they must venture into the deep, dark forest together . . .
Kayla and Rane are bound to one another by an enchantment and Kayla's actions. But the sorcerer forcing them to do his will may have miscalculated, because no-one comes out of the Great Forest unchanged. No-one.
My thoughts:

This book was a surprise for me.

It starts right in the thick of things. Kayla's already exercised what she believes is her only available opportunity to thumb her nose at her father's decision to sell her out. 

Kayla really worked for me. Her attitude works for me, from start to finish. She's a great balance between brave and proud and betrayed and a little broken. Rane's a wonderful match for her, having put himself between a rock and a hard place, and, as the blurb suggests, forced to keep pushing forward.

There's some wonderful fantasy elements in the Dark Forest. Maybe I haven't read a straight fantasy novel in a while, but I really appreciated the creativity here. I was able to really immerse in these dark woods.

The pacing is so... odd for me. It was fast, definitely, but, and I don't know how to explain this in a way that is clearer, but it had an odd texture to it? Maybe I just wanted Rane and Kayla to feel more present in the world rather than in the bubble of the forest for so much of the story?  

I also wanted The Golden Apple to delve more into the 'real reason behind the strange test' because it's a pretty huge thing. I'm sure this will be addressed later in the series, and there's a number of significant threads to pick up in book two (and beyond?). 

The only other thing that I didn't click with would involve spoiling part of the story. Let me say that I hope the sequel (apparently due out Fall 2014) will deal with the consequences of the book's big character reveal? 

Bottom line:

This is a great example of how kick-butt a princess can be, even if she's only armed with her wits and regal glare. I enjoyed The Golden Apple even where parts of it didn't push as far as I might have wanted them to. I'd happily recommend this to fans of YA fantasy, and particularly to those in the pre-teen/teenage group. 

3.5 stars
For fans of fantasy, young adult, fairy tales

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