ARC Mini Review – The Beholden

Today I have another mini review, and unfortunately, it is a pretty negative one. I had planned to do a longer review of this book, but almost everything I have to say is negative, and I don’t want to spend that much time in a negative head space. I’ve already spent enough time trudging through this book as it is. Needless to say, I’m disappointed that my first full read of the year was a dud, but oh well. Here’s to hoping the next one is better.

Orphaned as young women, Celestia and Izara De Malena find themselves land rich but destitute, with only a failing rainforest acreage, Celestia’s perfect manners, and Izara’s nascent magic to their aristocratic names. With the last of their money running out, they enact a dangerous plan—using a spell she doesn’t fully understand, Izara summons the Lady of the Seraphine and demands a favor: a husband for Celestia, one rich enough to enable the De Malena sisters to keep their land. But a favor from the river goddess always comes at a cost . . . 

Now, five years later, rumors of war and disease are spreading, Celestia’s husband has been called away on a secret mission for the Emperor, and the Lady of the Seraphine is back to collect her due. Izara will be forced to leave the academy where she has been studying to become a mage; Celestia will be pulled from her now-flourishing farm while newly pregnant with her first child. Together, they must repay their debt to the Lady—embarking on a mission that will put them on a collision course with Celestia’s husband, the Emperor, and a god even more powerful than the Lady of the Seraphine. 

Gorgeous, compelling, and utterly captivating, The Beholden follows Celestia and Izara as they journey from the lush rainforest to a frozen desert on an impossible quest to find a god who doesn’t want to be found and prevent the end of the world.

***Thank you to NetGalley and Erewhon Books for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

I trudged my way through this book against my better judgment. I kept hoping it would get better, but I honestly did not enjoy it all the way through the end. The pacing was extremely uneven with the first 80% of the book feeling so slow I kept checking the percentage I’d read and feeling absolute dismay that the number was still so low. The plot and writing were boring and repetitive. It was a simple quest story that had the characters going from one place to another over and over, but the biggest problem was the lack of real obstacles. The characters moved from place to place with no discernible plan, and the answers they sought were largely handed to them at each turn. Nothing really felt earned. It didn’t help that the characters were extremely one-dimensional. Only one of them really exhibited any growth and that was mostly due to her being absolutely insufferable for most of the book. Any slight change to her character at all gave the impression of immense growth because of how awful she was for most of the book. The only saving grace of this book was the somewhat interesting bits of world-building. The gods and magic were really intriguing, but even they were underwhelming because of the way they were utilized. The magic felt almost nonsensical at times and seemed to be able to do whatever the plot needed it do without any logical explanation. Some of the themes explored were also interesting, like the need for balance and the impact of being hated/shunned on one’s psyche, but the deliverance of them left a lot to be desired. Overall, I did not like this book and could probably write a lot more about why, but I don’t need that kind of negativity. So, instead I’m just going to rate it 2 out of 5 stars and move on to something (hopefully) better.

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