HEART OF THE FAE (The Otherworld #1) - by Emma Hamm

Published: December 2017 - Emma Hamm
Genres: Fairy tale retelling / romance / fantasy
Pages: 368.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Fantasy violence and mild gore, sexual innuendo, and a scene of very strong, erotic sexual content.
Format: eARC.
Source: Thank you so much to the author for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
Beauty and the Beast meets Irish Mythology in this sweeping retelling of the beloved fairytale.... Once upon a time… A plague sweeps across the emerald hills of Uí Néill, leaving a young midwife’s father with months to live. To save her people, Sorcha makes a deal with a dangerous Fae. She must travel across the sea, through merrow and kelpie lands, to find a forgotten king on a crumbling throne. Born king of the Seelie Fae, Eamonn fought battles unnumbered to uphold honor, duty, and freedom… until his twin brother sank a blade between his shoulders. Crystals grew from the wound, splitting open skin and bone. His people banished him to a cursed isle for his disfigurement, now king of criminals and fools. With the help of brownies, pixies, and will-o’-the-wisps, Sorcha battles to break through his crystalline shell and persuade him to take back his stolen throne. This determined beauty could come dangerously close to stealing his beastly heart...

I buddy-read this book with my amazing squad: Di @ Book Reviews By Di and Uma @ Books.Bags.Burgers. Go check out Di's review here and Uma's review here.

A few months ago I read Emma Hamm's debut novel, Silver Blood. I still haven't gotten round to reading the rest of the series, but I adored Silver Blood and, needless to say, was thrilled to read Hamm's latest novel.

The writing is stunning. Hamm has improved so much since Silver Blood days. I just love her easy-to-read, passionately flowing style, and the descriptions are also magnificent. The island, the castle, and all the places Sorcha visits are gorgeously well imagined, with rich language and immersive sensory details. Then atmosphere is strong, the culture is fresh, and it's simply a beautiful setting. I love it.

The pacing is off. It's extremely rushed, and that makes the whole story feel disjointed, vague, and hard to follow. I wish the scenes could've been expanded upon and deepened.
The feminism is forced. Sorcha is so obviously a "woman in a man's world" but we're constantly reminded of that and it's tiring and frustrating. It's also preachy. I'm a feminist myself, but when feminism is written into books it only really works if it comes through naturally.  On the nose feminist dialogue doesn't help, either - characters' actions should speak louder than their words, if they need words at all.

The plot needs more refining. It's not as strong as it could be, and especially towards the end the incidents feel random and rushed. Overall, it just needs more work. I also wish Hamm had taken more liberties with the original fairytale; I feel like she played it way too safe. I would've liked to have seen the characters suffer more, and have the story break out of the confines of the road it was carefully treading.

"I never wanted poetry," she said on a soft sigh. "I only wanted a man who could see me for who I am."

The characters need more fleshing out. Their personalities are all-over-the-place, and their character arcs are half-finished and weak. I just couldn't connect to anyone.
But I do love the secondary characters - Eamonn's castle "inmates" like Cian and Pixie are very endearing and charming. They're fantastic.

The romance did not work for me. For those of you who love Sarah J. Maas, I'm sure you'll love Eamonn and Sorcha's love affair, but I personally could not enjoy it.
Eamonn is your brooding alpha male, more beast than man, and his violence - animalness - comes across domineering and abusive, rather than romantic. Biting your partner till they bleed is not what I call love - both Eamonn and Sorcha do this to each other. And she even admits she's frightened of him, which certainly isn't love. Eamonn will also say thing like "Now is not a good time to say no to me, Sorcha" and "You shouldn't be with me because I'm dangerous", and frankly I have no patience for men like it.
I did not like the romance.

Heart of the Fae is a beautifully written story with stunning imagery and tangible scenes. But the characters are weak and underdeveloped, the pacing way too rushed, and the romance unhealthy. 

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