Received from NetGalley for review.
The Mark of the Tala tells the story of Andi, the middle sister of three princesses. Urulsa, the eldest, is destined for the throne; she is strategic, valiant and brave. Amelia, the youngest, is beautiful beyond belief with the kindest and most generous heart. Andi, the middle child, is neither a great warrior or exceedingly beautiful, she daydreams and would rather go for a ride than go to a grand ball. But her time is about to come, the mysterious Rayfe, king of the Tala, will appear and tell her she has a great destiny and that he needs her, his people need her, and that he will not stop until she is his, as she is fated to be, a slight problem when the Tala are your father’s enemy. Andi will realise that a life hiding in the background is not really a life at all, that people are not always what they seem and that she is more powerful than she could ever imagine.
I was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this; it’s a fantasy romance, which I tend to read quite a lot of (well YA fantasy but let’s face it there is ALWAYS a romance) but I feel like the romance worked really well within the plot of this novel and I actually really liked the protagonist, Andi, which was a real shock for me. I tend to read books with low expectations of female protagonists (something that distresses me greatly) as they are often too busy fawning over some man to get on with life and suddenly lose their own identity, but I don’t feel this was the case with Andi. Yes, there is romance, and yes she does grow to love him, but her main reason for marriage is to save her sisters and her kingdom and she in fact grows into herself as the book, and romance, progresses; she learns to speak for herself and trust what she knows to be right. I love the fact that throughout the novel most of the women work as a support system for each other, there is no woman on woman hate, no slut shaming or abusing other women because of what they look like or what they like doing and it was brilliant to read.
The Tala really fascinated me, there is no other word for it, they were so cool, so undeniably cool. They seemed like the kind of magical people you would want to appear out of nowhere and whisk you away – they’re mysterious, broody, alluring and can shape shift at will. Rayfe, their king, manages to be determined, hot blooded, gentle and caring, leading his people fearlessly into battle whilst treating Andi with the utmost care and respect. For me he wasn’t a swoon worthy male character in the sense of ‘he sounds hot and dangerous’ which is my general reasoning for loving the love interest in a book, but in the sense of actually being a realistic person who you would want in your life, someone who you know will look after you and protect you with his life but knows you are fully capable of doing the same for him and fully capable of being your own person.
Kennedy has taken lots of fantasy elements, thrown in a stubborn princess who is overlooked and suddenly has the ability to save an entire race of people and whacked in a few sex scenes (with the priceless terms ‘woman’s mouth’, ‘nether tissues’ and ‘pearl of my womanhood’, WHAT?!) for good measure, but it all worked. And I think it worked well, the logical part of my brain can see the faults but this book was just good fun and really easy to read. Yes, some things were predictable and silly but the good definitely outweighed the bad – the plot was interesting, I liked the characters and I loved the mysterious Tala and the lore about them.
Read: June 9th-13th 2014