*I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher. All quotes used in this review come from the uncorrected proof. These are my personal, honest opinions. Thank you.*
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Edition: Paperback ARC, 568 Pages
Hardcover Publication Date: May 04, 2021
A Spine that Shines? Only Partially
A strange darkness grows in Allward.
Even Corayne an-Amarat can feel it, tucked away in her small town at the edge of the sea.
She soon discovers the truth: She is the last of an ancient lineage—and the last hope to save the world from destruction. But she won’t be alone. Even as darkness falls, she is joined by a band of unlikely companions:
A squire, forced to choose between home and honor.
An immortal, avenging a broken promise.
An assassin, exiled and bloodthirsty.
An ancient sorceress, whose riddles hide an eerie foresight.
A forger with a secret past.
A bounty hunter with a score to settle.
Together they stand against a vicious opponent, invincible and determined to burn all kingdoms to ash, and an army unlike anything the realm has ever witnessed.
‘Take your sword and bleed for me, and I will bleed for you.’
-Victoria Aveyard, Realm Breaker
Hello, everyone! I hope your week is off to a good start. I just finished reading my ARC of Realm Breaker last night. There was a lot of hype surrounding this book, and I really wanted to love it. Sadly, I was quite disappointed. Let’s jump into some of my initial thoughts:
- The concept of this book sounded really fun and amazing! A pirate’s daughter teams up with a rag-tag group of people to save the Realm!
- Unfortunately, the execution of this concept was disappointing. For the majority of the book, I was honestly bored. I think the main reason I was disappointed was due to the way this book was marketed; the blurb makes big promises that the book is ultimately unable to deliver on in my personal opinion. This is NOT a pirate book.
- I’ll get more into stuff about the characters later, but for now I’ll point out some issues I had with the pacing and writing style. This book is told from so many different POVs – at least 6. Multpile POVs are a tricky thing to pull off. Sometimes, this strategy works. Sometimes, it doesn’t. In this case, the POVs really bogged down the pace. In at least one instance, one POV chapter actually retells the same event from a different perspective. A lot of times, I felt the POVs just hindered forward momentum of the plot. A few of the POVs didn’t really add much to the story (e.g. Rhida – Dom’s cousin).
- Speaking of plot, there wasn’t much of it; it often meandered, and I kept waiting for it to pick up. Out of this 568-paged story, there is a spurt of action near the beginning of the book, another spurt in the middle when the one main plot twist is revealed, and a concentrated spurt of action that is squished into the final few chapters. But for the large chunks of text in-between, I often found myself bored.
- This book is for people who like long chapters. Each chapter averaged about 20 pages, but didn’t always accomplish much. It got to the point where I was only reading about a chapter a day because of the lack of forward plot momentum. I had to read a different, easier book simultaneously.
- The prologue itself is 26 pages long. Although I do admire how Aveyard was trying to do something conceptually different and establish the failure of the old “heroes,” this was one of the most difficult prologues for me to get through due to all of the new characters and terms introduced. I was very confused about terms like “Spindleblade,” “Spindleblood,” etc.
- The author certainly has a talent for world-buidling. No doubt about that. I did find the world of Realm Breaker to be interesting at first. Yet, I felt there was just so much world-building and descriptions in this book that it overwhelmed the plot, and there was not enough action to keep me invested in the story.
- The characters often journeyed from place to place, but more often than not, nothing very significant happened on the way or at their actual destinations.
- There is a corpse-like army that is introduced at the beginning, and I thought it was very cool and creepy at first. But then it’s hardly used throughout the book! (Aside from one very minor appearance.)
- Some highlights of this book were a tavern brawl with a bounty hunter, crashing a royal wedding, fighting a sea monster, cool horses, and hints of the beginning of a villain romance. But other than these elements, I was largely bored.
Characters & (Lack of) Romance
Here is a brief overview of the characters:
- In general, the characters are mainly defined by a single characteristic or trait, and it is difficult to get to know them in-depth due to having so many different POVs.
- Corayne is the daughter of a pirate and destined to save the Realm. Though the big hero sword is literally too heavy for her. I did appreciate what Aveyard tried to do with this aspect of her character; Corayne is not your typical “strong hero” figure. However, her being the daughter of a pirate has almost no significance for the actual plot of the story. This was one reason I was disappointed.
- Andry is a squire who survived a failed quest. He is a typical “good-boy” character. I didn’t find him particularly interesting.
- Dom is an immortal who wants to avenge the death of his friend. He reminded me a little of Thor, and I did like him overall.
- Sorasa is an assassin, but she doesn’t do much actual assassinating. That was another reason I was disappointed. Overall, I like her tough character, but really wanted to know more of her history and backstory about what happened with the assassins’ guild. But we aren’t really given it in this book.
- Valtik is a witch, and I liked the quirkiness of her character. But again, we don’t get to learn much about her, and she doesn’t add a whole lot to the plot. She foretells some things, but overall speaks in unhelpful riddles.
- There are two other characters that are added near the end of the story, but they didn’t bring much to the table. I’m not sure if their characters were necessary. At that point in the book, it just felt more like a detour from the main plot.
- The most interesting characters were the human villains in my opinion, but they only get a few POV chapters. I think this book could’ve been much more interesting if there were a more even distribution of the good- and bad-guy POVs. As it stands, the good-guy POVs take over the book.
- There is hardly any in-person interaction with the villains. (Only at the beginning and once in the middle of the book.) Even though the characters kept stating they were in danger, I often didn’t feel the danger.
- The inhuman “mastermind” villain is called “What Waits.” Unfortunately, this mastermind felt very abstract and thus didn’t present a large degree of the “danger factor” for me personally. The heroes never interact with this mastermind in book one.
- Friendships definitely take priority over romantic relationships in this book. There is barely any romance at all in this book, and I’m someone who usually needs a bit more romance in my books. There are brief hints of romance that may develop into something more in the second book. But in this 568-paged book, it wasn’t enough for me.
By the time I got to the final spurt of action near the end, I just wanted to be finished reading this book – which is not a good feeling to have. There was so much build-up, I thought we would at least get a big showdown with the main villains. But no. The heroes do fight something near the end, but I was just kind of like “Whaat?” because it was not the main villain. And then the story just … ends kind of abruptly. I didn’t even think the final chapter was very good set-up for the second book; the villain gets very dramatically enraged all of a sudden about something without delving enough into the significance. (In case you would like to read the book, I don’t want to say too much and spoil.)
Sadly, I can’t say that this 568-paged book was worth all the time and effort I put into reading it. This book had so much potential to be a fun, action-packed adventure story, but it just fell short for me. I thought that a story about a pirate’s daughter, an immortal, an assassin, a sorceress, a squire, a forger, and a bounty hunter would be way more exciting. I’m undecided whether I will be reading the sequel or not. I’m leaning towards not, but I will likely read other early reviews first.
Having said all of this, I understand that every book is the product of an author’s hard work and effort. These are my personal opinions and thoughts about one book. Some readers may still enjoy the writing style of this book and should feel free to give it a go if you feel so inclined. I hope your week is filled with good books! Happy reading, everyone 🙂
*Content Warnings: Fantasy violence and gore; a few f-words and s-words throughout.*
Copyright © 2021 by Spines that Shine (Caitlin Shaffer)