Sweet Black Waves – Review

“Something had broken inside Branwen the day her parents died and never fully mended; something had ignited, too–a fiery hatred that she knew would consume her if she didn’t keep it carefully controlled.”

Raised by her aunt and uncle, who are also the King and Queen, Branwen has been guided by two things: devotion to her kingdom and hatred for the enemies that killed her parents. When she finds a man drowning near the beach, she acts on instinct and saves him. Only to find out he is from the country she hates.

The echo of her parents memory convince Branwen to heal this man, though, and that compassion sparks something in her heart. Something that may make forgiveness possible. Peace becomes a goal Branwen dreams towards, but her cousin, the Princess is not as easy to convince. Branwen will have to choose between being loyal to her cousin and doing what is for the greater good of her people.

“If you want your people to fight and die for you, then you must be prepared to do the same. And if you want to rule in peace, it is better to turn enemies into friends.”

To start, this is a romance book. Heavy on the romance, light on the magic and war. Romance, in large part, is not a genre I really find myself drawn into, so take that into consideration as I review this book. I can deal with romance in a book, and have swooned over many romances in many books. But romance novels, where the emotion is the driving force of the plot, generally does not make me swoon.

When I read the synopsis, there was mention of magic, specifically in powers that awaken in Branwen. But that storyline was tiny in proportion to the rest of the book. Even the war plot lines are not the focal point of this book. I was also expecting more mythology, and while it’s there, again, it is mentioned vaguely and only plays a small role in the book. This is largely focused on Branwen and her feelings towards the man she saves, along with her relationship with her cousin Essy.

From the beginning, this book just didn’t click with me. Princess Essy, in particular was a miss for me. She largely comes across as a spoiled, petulant, childish girl. I understand that this is necessary for her particular plot line, but it didn’t feel authentic to me. She had details of her personality, like these extreme raging tantrums and anxiety, that never felt fully developed. To me, she ended up feeling like a caricature of a person, than a believable personality. Her unwillingness to accept her role as princess also felt like a stretch.

“Just because we seldom get what we want doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try,” said the princess, raising her chin.”

I think because I was expecting more of the magic and war plot lines going in, this book read very slow for me. It is a very emotion driven book, which feels typical for a romance novel. Emotions I can deal with, but this book asked a lot of me. Branwen and the man she saved start to fall in love within days. Essy, who is described as being a flirt and flitting from one girlish crush to another, suddenly without much explanation is in love with a power hungry man. So much so, that she is willing to go to some extreme lengths for this romance. It all felt a little far-fetched. And since I was being asked to move forward in the plot based on these heavy emotions I wasn’t feeling, it all just fizzled instead of flaring.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t moments of action. There were, and they were explosive moments. Which makes me actually really sad, because if there had been a bit more of that, and less angst, I would have loved this book. Or if there had been as much character development, and more of the magic explained and shown, in the same way that she described the rich landscape, I think it would have resonated more with me. It says a lot that not even pirates or zombies saved this book for me.

Knowing that this is largely inspired by Tristan and Iseult, the build up towards the end felt overly dramatic. There was a lot of emotion, but I honestly didn’t feel super connected to the characters, so the betrayal didn’t hit as hard. Plus, I knew it was coming. I mean, I saw that particular plot line unfolding a mile away. Maybe this worked for readers who were emotionally invested, but for me it fell flat.

“Sometimes her cousin was the most fearless person she knew; other times, fear conquered her completely.”

If I had realized this was as romance driven as it is, I would have read this in a different state of mind. I wanted fantasy! Magic and war with forbidden romance as an add on. I was not prepared for all the angst. And there is a lot. Of angst, that is. Overall, unfortunately, this book was a miss for me. This is the first in a trilogy, and maybe Branwen’s magic holds more in future books, but I won’t be continuing with the series.

However, if you read and love romance, definitely give Sweet Black Waves a shot! There were some spectacular moments, and overall I gave it three stars. So, it wasn’t all terrible for me. But if war and magic are more your thing, you may find yourself not finishing this one.

Thank you BookSparks for sending me a review copy for #yasummerreads #readbythesea2018 campaign!

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