Hi I’m Amy, and if you didn’t know, I love fantasy stories. I particularly appreciate books featuring elemental magic (Air Awakens by Elise Kova was one of my favourite books of last year!), and so when the author of Zephyra got in touch with me asking if I’d like to review her latest novel, I couldn’t say no – thank you Andrea! Keep on reading for my spoiler free review.
Source: Andrea B Lamoureux
From the cover:
“Growing up as the cousin of the princess, Zephyra spends her days navigating between her mother’s judgements and her royal duties. Horseback rides, beautiful gowns, and the rites of Celestia dominate her horizon. Living in comfort and luxury, she and her cousin Adelaide, the heir apparent, expect their greatest trials to be those of the heart. When Queen Jelena, their grandmother, finally passes away, Zephyra’s childhood comes to an end. However, the new, glamorous world of royal life will be more than she expects.
Thrown into a dungeon as she sacrifices herself to protect the new queen, Zephyra will have a chance at the humble life she’s always coveted. As fate throws her in the path of new friends and new dangers, it will be far more than she bargained for. There is more than one threat to the safety of the kingdom, and fulfilling her destiny will test her to the breaking point…and unleash powers she never knew she had.”
This is book one of The Elemental Diaries, and begins when Zephrya, granddaughter of the Queen and cousins and best friends with the Princess, is still a child. The beginning is quite slow paced, as we watch Zephyra grow older as the story progresses. I couldn’t help but feel the pacing was a little off in some parts as whilst it was a fairly slow start, time did seem to pass quite quickly, with matters being solved straight away and jumping from one age to another.
Another point I noticed a couple of times is that jarring language was used which didn’t quite seem apt for the age, class or time being portrayed. One sentence would include ‘high class’ language with words that seemed to have been chosen specifically for this fantastical setting, followed by words like “okay”. However, this didn’t really bother me but thought I’d include it here as I know for some language is quite a big factor towards their enjoyment of a story.
There was an interesting mother and daughter relationship featured in Zephyra as there seemed to be a mutual dislike of each other which you don’t often read about and you could definitely feel that the mother was very cold and calculating. On the other hand completely, I loved the grandmother/granddaughter relationship! Despite her grandmother being the Queen, Zephyra got along with her so well and to me she seemed just like any other grandmother, passing on advise, reassurances and love.
I also really enjoyed reading about the Goddess Celestia and the traditions and rituals the people had. I wish there was more to read about this, as Zephyra’s trips to the temples were really informative and interesting and could have been a much bigger part of the story (though this may come into play in a future Elemental Diary).
In terms of the main characters, I unfortunately couldn’t really relate to Zephyra in the beginning, which was upsetting as I really wanted to root for her. However, there was a lot of character development and you can definitely see her growing from strength to strength as she matures, and I must admit that she grew on me the further the story developed. I think a lot of this was due to Zephyra becoming accustomed to life outside the palace walls which definitely made her much more relatable, along with her feelings being so well expressed they were almost tangible.
Before we move on to the next part I have to point out a couple of trigger warnings: rape, sexual abuse and harrassment, starvation and death.
Zephyra went through some extremely distressing and dark situations which were highly unexpected and quite shocking to read. However, it’s never mentioned again which in my opinion is quite unrealistic, especially after the graphic detailing used to depict the scenes.
I understand that different people deal with trauma in their own and this is totally valid so may be why Zephyra never thought about it again, but after how specific the scenes were I had expected them to come up again. I read one review describing the novel as “light, fun and breezy read” but I have to disagree as I found myself physically recoiling at one scene. Because of this it is definitely more of an older-young-adult if you understand what I mean!
One of my favourite tropes of a fantasy story is the one where a character has unknown powers and goes through trials or lessons to develop their magic, and this story had so much potential to fulfil this. Unfortunately, I found that in this case Zephyra’s powers seemed to be gained and even harnessed after such a short amount of time, one lesson to be precise. I understand that this isn’t to the full extent of her magic and time was definitely of the essence, but I’d like to have read more of a training and teaching situation.
I can’t say much in terms of the other characters for fear of spoilers, but Zephyra does meet someone who she ends up embarking on a journey with. After undergoing such terrible treatment before meeting her travelling companion, there doesn’t seem to be much questioning of why things were happening, what had happened, where they were going etc. There was almost instant trust and it was erring on the edge of insta love though I do consider that at the time this story was set, relationships most likely progressed at a different rate to what we are used to now.
I just have to give credit to Andrea B Lamoureux’s writing skills. The story was so easy to visualise in my mind from beginning to end, and I could easily follow the characters on their journeys throughout the story. I was gripped and wanted to know where the story was headed. The plot was well thought out and I definitely feel like this story was a huge set up for the next instalment in which I think a lot of exciting and important things will happen. There are 4 books in total in this series, each told from another elemental’s perspective, and I’m definitely excited to see how this story progresses! 3/5 stars.