Thursday, August 27, 2015

Review: Sapphire

Title: Sapphire
Author: Sarah Fay Olson
Page Count: 358
My Rating: 2 TURTLES: A so-so read. It had some redeeming qualities, but not enough to recommend.
*This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review

In the kingdom of Asteria, Layla has dreamt of nothing but royal balls and falling in love. On her sixteenth birthday, she receives the invitation to the annual Autumn Ball and it doesn't seem like life could get any better when the Prince falls for her. But the fairy tale is short-lived as Layla soon learns the truth about her murdered parents and is given a sapphire that changes her life.

This book wasn’t my cup of tea. If done right, High Fantasy YA can be one of my favorite genres. Take Kristin Cashore’s Graceling trilogy, Janice Hardy’s Healing Wars series, or Richard Due’s Moon Coin series, for example, I love those books and hoped Sapphire might fall in a similar vein. The author clearly spent a lot of time figuring out the world of the book, and I appreciated the depth to which she was able to describe the land. Unfortunately, there were just too many issues I had for me to really enjoy this book or feel like I could recommend it to others.

One of the first things that started detracting from my enjoyment was the writing. There were multiple grammatical errors and as a writer myself I tend to pick out errors wherever they are. I really don’t like feeling like an editor when I’m reading a book. I also found it strange that at times the dialogue was almost stilted and uber-formal but the next minute there would be weirdly modern vernacular which seemed out of place in a medieval era fantasy world.
There was also some clunkiness to the writing that again made me feel like an editor. For example, the main character uses the line “for once in my life I knew what I wanted” more than once, and maybe other people wouldn’t have noticed that, but I did and it took me out of the book when I saw the repetition.

I also understand that since it is set in a medieval world that there wouldn’t be full women’s equality, but at the same time there were a few instances that rubbed me the wrong way. One of these things was that the main character has a child out of wedlock and a lot of people judge her for it, but instead of showing what a single mother princess could accomplish she says that she will set an example so other women don’t follow in her footsteps. One other thing I’ll mention is when the man she falls in love with after she has her child asks her to marry her she says no because she thinks that marrying him and losing him in the war would be more painful than not marrying him and losing him. I thought this logic was pretty faulty, but she was burned pretty badly by the last guy she was engaged with so I understood her reluctance. Her lover, despite knowing her previous history, gets very butt-hurt and doesn’t talk to her for several days. Layla then feels guilty because she was “being selfish” and not taking care of her man’s feelings. Because selfish is exactly what I would call a woman who says “I don’t know” to a marriage proposal when her last fiance tried to have her killed even after he knew she was pregnant *end sarcastic rant*.

The last thing I’ll say is that the book is called Sapphire because of a magical sapphire that glows when a true heir to the throne is wearing it. This could have been a really cool plot device if they didn’t know who the heir was. Young women could have lined up like men lining up to pull excalibur out of the rock to try it on, but since everyone already knew who the princess was, the sapphire didn’t really serve a purpose. I could have just as easily been a nonmagical family heirloom. Also, the sapphire’s ability to glow is obviously magical, but other than that and one other instance (a creek that glows) there was no mention of magic in the book. Why have a fantasy world with magic if you don’t go into the magic especially when the one magical object isn’t even really that integral to the plot? I would have been satisfied even if the general population didn’t know much about magic, but that one group of monks had mastered it and made the sapphire as a gift or something. It just seemed like a big wasted opportunity to me.

Of course, my voice is just one opinion, but from my time reading the book I don’t think I’d recommend it to others to read. From the other reviews some people really liked it and I’m glad, but I can’t say that I did so much. 

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases. 

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