The Beholder by Anna Bright

The Beholder by Anna Bright Book Cover

Summary

Selah has waited her whole life for a happily ever after. As the only daughter of the leader of Potomac, she knows her duty is to find the perfect match, a partner who will help secure the future of her people. Now that day has finally come.

But after an excruciatingly public rejection from her closest childhood friend, Selah’s stepmother suggests an unthinkable solution: Selah must set sail across the Atlantic, where a series of potential suitors awaits—and if she doesn’t come home engaged, she shouldn’t come home at all.

From English castle gardens to the fjords of Norge, and under the eye of the dreaded Imperiya Yotne, Selah’s quest will be the journey of a lifetime. But her stepmother’s schemes aren’t the only secrets hiding belowdecks…and the stakes of her voyage may be higher than any happy ending.

Book Details

The Beholder by Anna Bright
The Beholder Series Book #1
On Sale Date: June 4, 2019 by Harper Teen
Young Adult Fiction / Action & Adventure / Fantasy
Hardcover, 448 pages 
Source: ARC from Edelweiss
My Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars

About the Author

I believe in woods, mountains, highways, cobblestones, roller coasters, dancing, concerts, cherry Pop Tarts, books, and magic.

When I'm not reading or writing on my couch, I'm dragging my husband off on an adventure, communing with Salem (my kitten/spiritual familiar), or causing trouble at One More Page Books, where I work.

 

Review

Filled with lush fairy tales, epic sea-voyages, and swoon-worthy romance, THE BEHOLDER is the first book in a new YA alternate historical duology by Anna Bright whose heroine is sent on a quest: she must sail across the Atlantic where a series of potential suitors awaits—only her stepmother doesn’t plan for Selah to return—nor her happily ever after.

The Beholder is about all kinds of things. It’s about gowns, and ships, and boys. But in my heart, it’s a story about stories.
— Anna Bright

Throughout the story, THE BEHOLDER weaves in threads from some of readers favorite stories—such as fairy tale classics like “Cinderella,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Snow White” and mixes them with legends and myths like King Arthur, Saint George, and Odysseus. Even Baba Yaga finds her way into the book. You can tell the author has a real love for storytelling, and finding these little hidden gems throughout is half the fun.

The story has a Selection meets The Bachelorette vibe as our heroine Selah is sent across the Atlantic where suitors are waiting for her.

What keeps this story grounded is the wonderful characterization of Selah. She goes from sweet, trusting, and naive at the beginning of the story—to a heroine who learns to trust in herself. One who stand-ups to others and to fight for that which she feels is right and true.

We can’t always have a warrior heroine and it was a nice change to see a young girl who suffers from insecurities and self-doubt but finds personal courage by the end of the book.

So, even though we have a ton of fun sailing with her to each stop, where swoony-boys await—there are some wonderful growth experiences along the way. Plus, an evil stepmother presence is ever looming in the background and dangerous intrigue from the various courts make each stop filled with unforeseen twists.

I knew I was changing as I spent time with Torden. But somehow, it didn’t feel like change under pressure. Or if it did, it was pressure like sunlight and rain and soil. It felt like growth. It felt good.

The lush landscapes and alternate historical settings make this sea-voyage captivating for readers.

Selah’s quest takes her to richly re-imagined versions of an England and Norway, of princes, knights, and warriors. Of castles, jousts, and blooming romances. A dark and dangerous German territory is hinted at as well, the Imperiya Yotne. One character, in particular, has me very curious and knowing how much I love the dark-hero, I’m excited for Selah to reach this last destination.

Hopefully, a map will be included in the book, as the actual time period and place of ports are a bit confusing to figure out for the reader.

Before you begin reading, it’s important to know that Selah lives in a world much like our own, but each stop does not follow any particular timeline, in fact, it often follows inspiration from stories for the feel and historical setting. Plenty of clues are given, but a gorgeous map will be much appreciated.

In the End

THE BEHOLDER ended up being a captivating read with its mix of alternate-historical storytelling, sea-adventuring, intrigue, and swoony-romance. Readers need to be patient in the beginning as this debut builds to exciting quests and landscapes. I was surprised on just how much I ended up liking each of the suitors and how unique they each ended up being. Although the beginning was a slow read for me, the end had me on edge and excited for the next installment.

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