Title: Betrothed: A Faery Tale
Author: Therese Woodson
Narrator: Matthew Lloyd Davies
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Run Time: 6 hours and 25 minutes
Category: Fantasy, Romance
At a Glance: While it doesn’t live up to its potential, mystery or suspense-wise, it’s still a nice little romance narrated by a talented reader who brings the characters to life.
Reviewed By: Cassie
Blurb: Faery royalty have always married for duty rather than love. Prince Chrysanths should be no different – except with a human for a father, the prince known as Puck already is different. When he is betrothed against his will to Prince Sky, Puck flees to his father in the human world, only to have Sky follow.
Prince Sky Song of the Clouds isn’t thrilled with the prospect of marriage either, but is bound by duty to follow through – if he can’t win Puck over, the faery realm might very well dissolve into utter chaos. Too busy arguing, Puck and Sky are unaware there are others with a vested interest in seeing the betrothal fail. In a bid for Puck’s crown, they’ll seek to keep them apart, even as Puck and Sky realize that duty and love don’t always have to be mutually exclusive.
Review: This is a cute little romance with generally likeable characters and an engaging narrator who did a good job of bringing them to life. Matthew Lloyd Davies handles the characters’ distinct voices well, and flips readily between accents. I don’t think I’ve listened to anything else he’s done, but I will definitely be taking a look to see what other works he’s narrated.
The whole jumping off point of this story is a treaty between all the Faery royal houses. This treaty requires the houses to ally with each other in a perpetual series of arranged marriages to prevent a past, apparently devastating, war from becoming a renewed threat. The details of the war and the specifics of the treaty are left vague. In fact, the whole faery realm is pretty opaque to the reader, which is one of the reasons I didn’t give the book more stars. Because our MC, Puck, breaks for the human world pretty quickly, most of the action actually takes place there, meaning world-building for the faery realm is pretty thin on the ground. For a story built on the foundation of political duty and the traditions of the faery realm, the lack of detail is a bit disappointing.
Puck’s character arc is another reason my star rating on this one didn’t climb higher. He’s understandably disgruntled about being forced into an arranged marriage, but on the scale of I-understand-how-you-feel, to no-you’re-actually-just-a-big-dick, Puck tips a little bit too far over the line toward dickitude. He definitely makes a recovery in the second half, but he hangs onto his petulant man-child attitude a bit too long, so there were a couple chapters where I lost all sympathy for him and just plain disliked him. My irritation with Puck was particularly marked because his character arc plays out in direct contrast with his much more likeable love interest, Sky. Sky is under the same onerous obligation, but he acts like an adult instead of a selfish kid, which makes him much more sympathetic to the reader. He battles through his own reluctance, poignant home-sickness, and fear of the future, and gives getting to know Puck an honest attempt—only to be met by Puck’s deliberate rudeness and intentional attempts to bully him into giving up and running home. I ended up wanting to kick Puck in the shins and kidnap Sky to feed him tea and cookies until he felt better.
My other main issue with the book is the weakness of the enemy’s backstory and motivation. I didn’t know it was possible, but the villain managed to be both obvious and completely random at the same time. It’s pretty clear from the get go where the problems are stemming from, but the scope of the issue and the motive behind it are so out of the blue that they come across as a diabolus ex machina. There are no real clues leading up to the “big reveal”, so I actually completely missed that there was a mystery plot in the works until it had nearly played out. Which means the only real tension in the book is relationship driven conflict, not plot driven suspense. It was absolutely a missed opportunity story-wise.
Despite those problems, I would be interested in a second book if one became available. There’s so much room to expand on the faery world and politics, plus some meaty, large-scope issues that the ending leaves unresolved. Puck and Sky’s relationship has scads of growth potential, and by the end of the book, I liked them both enough to be interested in knowing more about their future. I’d also really like to see more of Puck’s human father. He was a great character, and I liked him quite a bit. I couldn’t find anything indicating there will be more books set in this world, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. The ending definitely felt like a springboard into a sequel. And if there is no follow up, I would actually have to say the finale leaves too many things unresolved to be truly satisfying.
You can buy Betrothed: A Faery Tale here: