Book Review: Struggling with the Current | A.R.K. Horton

Oh. Mid- range fantasy. I’ve just recently learned that there is such a thing as high, mid, and low fantasy. High fantasy is something like The Lord of the Rings, where as low fantasy might be something like a Spy x Family with the Esper girl. Just slightly fantasy.

I’m going with mid fantasy for the moment as I get through the prologue and chapter one and start meeting the characters. Different time, different place, learning about political structure and the MC being stuck between being her parents’ pawn and desperately wanting out of the whole heirarchical system. I’m currently in somewhere around Akatsuki no Yona crossed over with some other female led isekai anime. Sometimes YA, or grammar-style YA makes these types of stories more palatable to someone who cannot put forth the effort to deep dive the Wheel of Time series for a review (I’m avoiding, have you noticed?)

*also, the telltale sign of a bunch of names relatively unfamiliar to the expected contemporary literature field and possible impossible to pronounce without tripping on your own tongue* I mean, standard practice really. It would be weird to have a completely different country/planet/etc. with characters named Sarah or John or Tyrel, if you know what I mean.

It reads like young adult for adults – contains a few elements that are for a more mature audience while providing the familiarity of a court intrigue world build expected from writers like Tamora Pierce. The standard practice of a world at war, a power hungry villain, a few well placed friends, and a coming-into-her-power MC.

The detail in the settings is not overpowering. Sometimes world building can go beyond necessary, especially when a story isn’t dialogue heavy. This one is balanced cleanly between dialogue and observed elements.

Some headjumping takes place where we switch from character emotions to a different character’s internal emotion. It’s interesting, noticing it in another person’s writing. I know I’ve been called out on doing that. I do it a lot actually, but I couldn’t quite grasp the idea of why it was distracting to readers. This one had some interruption patterns in it that were not frequent enough to make the head jumping comfortable, but it is not so frequent to make it a prominent issue in reading.

The randomness of the sudden physical fondness between the MC and a handoff spy caught me off guard. Honestly, her getting harassed the number of times she did, it made that encounter all the more stark and on edge for me as a reader. The build up was almost like a rebound relationship. No depth other than an element by which to show the character’s age-bound inability to make wise decisions. I mean, I was 18 and extremely stupid about relationships. (There are major reasons why one of my highest soap boxes I climb on religiously is healthy romantic relationship representation within books). It’s entirely plausible for the age range of the character, it just seemed…I don’t know how to put it. So often, characters end up being written in as physically decent to look at and that seems to make a romantic interest forgiving when there is no structure by which to base the romance off.

Am I being picky? I don’t think so. A general observation that just because you’re of the age of consent doesn’t really mean you’re mentally ready to make good decisions. Actually. In all honesty, I appreciate the showing of problematic relationship when it is called out for what it is. The other interactions the MC has had with individuals has set up tension within the reader to have red flags going up in their head going “oh, honey, no.”

This is a mid-fantasy that follows a standard story line, but deviates from the standard young adult pandering by reaching into the dark recesses of what people go through, women for the most part in this, in being objectified by not only the passerby, but also by family, in-laws, neighbors, friends. What happens when a person no longer serves another’s person’s needs. The author’s need to address these issues comes through loud and clear. They are issues that are used often for shock value in most of these types of mid-fantasy books, but with little character development depth. This one steps up to the plate and swings, sending the ball flying.

It takes it and really develops the anxiety and ptsd in the character. It doesn’t heavy hand the issues that create the ptsd, keeping it out of dark-fantasy psych-horror bracket territory, but the story contains enough elements to really paint a rounded picture of what it is to exist as a woman in a world where women are seen as little more than pawns.

There are moments in there where friendships develop and true loving relationships are revealed. That makes the point all the more clear for what is going on with the MC and why it is heartbreaking.

This fits neatly into adult fiction category, if maybe New Adult? I’m still unfamiliar with that as an age rating genre. I wouldn’t think to put this in with a standard high school library, but would expect an older high school age group to get hold of it and read it regardless of that accessibility restraint. Marketability would be probably directed in the mid 20s, but I could see 16+ reading this regardless of an age rating easily.

If you’re partial to a court intrigue fantasy in a different world with magic elements, this would probably fit the bill. Reminds me of Lady Knight or some of the Dragonriders of Pern books. Maybe something like Kiera Knightley’s Princess of Thieves if you’re thinking movies.

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Chapel Orahamm View All →

I am a writer and artist working through the Kavordian Library series. I write sci-fi, fantasy, lgbt romance.

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