Sunday, November 30, 2014

Reviews: The Key and Red, books 1-2 of the True Reign Series

I have been wanting to read the True Reign Series by Jennifer Anne Davis for a while now and finally decided to fulfill that wish, with a little help from the publisher, Clean Teen Publishing.

Review of The Key by Jennifer Anne Davis

Many years ago, a conqueror entered the Kingdom of Greenwood Island. Backed by the Emperor across the sea, this man overpowered the army of Greenwood and murdered its royal family. But one child escaped this new king’s massacre—the baby princess, Amer. Seventeen years later, Amer—now Rema—knows nothing of her heritage; she only knows how unfair the conquering king has been to his people these last years. Rema also knows that she just might be falling for the king’s second son, Prince Darmik, and he for her. But the crown prince, Lennek, will stop at nothing to keep his brother from all happiness.

When I first saw The Key by Jennifer Anne Davis, its cover grabbed my attention. The mysterious key-sword with bright blue eyes drew me in, but the premise of a princess unknowingly falling in love with her enemy and being forced to marry his brohter made me buy the book as soon as it was published. But for reasons I cannot even remember now, I did not read The Key when it was first released, but have read it now, after all three of the books in the series have already been published. Even after waiting all of about a year to read it, I found that The Key did not disappoint my first impressions.

The plot intrigued me and drew me in. I could hardly wait to discover what happened next in the story, and the cliff-hanger ending did not help.

I enjoyed the characters. Rema was a fiery, willful young lady who knew what she wanted and did it. However, I was glad to see that she thought before she acted on many occasions instead of simply acting regardless of the consequences. Yet, she did not even appear to wonder at the fact that she knew nothing about her parents, was always sheltered from the community growing up, and had a complexion unheard of in that part of the world. Perhaps she could have been a little more observant. Yet things most obvious to some can go unnoticed by those who have grown up with them and seen them as normal for years.

In addition, half of the novel was viewed through the eyes of the commander-prince, Darmik. I must admit, none of the books I have read have presented the stereotypical soldier, who is merciless with the rebellious people, as being moral or worthwhile for the main character to get to know. Instead, he is depicted as unfeeling as he murders or punishes the people for small offenses. In The Key, Darmik does execute people for little things with the intention of instilling fear, but his motivation, to serve, please, and obey his father and king is honorable. Darmik’s allegiance is a bit misguided, but he begins to understand that fact throughout the story. In all, Darmik is portrayed as a good man despite his questionable actions.

The romance was interesting. It was not sensual—something for which I am thankful—but a love-at-first-sight kind of romance. Love at first sight is lovely in stories, and I do know that attraction happens at first sight, but I just don’t believe that that attraction is the same as love. As Rema worries to herself whether she really loves Darmik, she thinks to herself “I don’t really know him,” which is the truth. I would have appreciated seeing the characters get to know one another at a friendship level before jumping into the “kissing” side of romance.

I enjoyed The Key for its interesting plot and engaging characters and I hope you will too.
(P.S. The Key is FREE on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and CTP. You can also find it on Goodreads.)

Review of Red by Jennifer Anne Davis

Red by Jennifer Anne Davis picks up where The Key left off. First of all, Rema does not die, as the cliff-hanger ending of The Key may have led one to believe. Instead, Rema is whisked off to the rebels’ camp which is hidden high in the mountains. Once she has recovered from her illness, Mako, the rebel commander, insists upon her physical training but still does not reveal the secret to her—Rema is the rightful heir to the throne. Meanwhile, Prince Darmik, Lennek, and an Empiron Assassin scour the countryside looking for her in a deadly competition. But Darmik’s motivation to win the game might not be the same as the others’. Will he reach her in time?

I enjoyed Red. In fact, I enjoy just about every book I read. Red captured my attention and continued an intriguing story. The stakes are raised time and again, a possible love triangle is thrown in, and the romance deepens. I think I enjoyed the character development the most, despite the flaws.

I was disappointed that Rema did not discover on her own that she was Princess Amer but had to have someone tell her. Throughout her life, Rema has had clues as to her heritage or at least the fact that her aunt and uncle were hiding something from her. For example, her family always called her Rema, which is completely different than her given name. However, I was impressed with the way Rema handled learning it. Instead of being angry that her family lied to her, Rema accepted that they meant the best for her and moved on with life. She also accepted her place as princess rather quickly, instead of moping, and took charge, as a princess is supposed to.

Prince Darmik, also, took a while to decide to turn against his evil father. I suppose a lifetime’s worth of loyalty is not easy to turn one’s back on, but the way his father treated him, not to mention the rest of the kingdom, should have raised some red flags before Rema came along. However, I did enjoy seeing Darmik change from a merciless killer to someone with compassion as he fell ever more deeply in love with Rema.

One thing that did not make sense to me was the fact that Rema had not lived in the secret fortress from the time her parents died. It is quite possibly the safest place in the kingdom. Why would Mako not have Rema, possibly the most important person to the rebels, live in the safest place as well as the rebel base? The only reason I can think of is that Mako wanted her to see for herself the horrible way the king was treating the kingdom. Presumably, living with the citizens would show her their need for a better ruler.

I would warn the reader that there are several swear words, violence (they are trying to start a war, after all), and a bit of sensual romance. Neither the violence nor the sensuality is overly descriptive or long, but it is definitely present.

Overall, I think Red could have been written better, its flaws corrected, but I still enjoyed it and could not quite see what would happen next.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Clean Teen Publishing, in exchange for an honest review.
(P.S. You can find Red on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, and CTP.)

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