The Beholder by Anna Bright
Themes: Historical, romance, YA, adventure, fairytale elements
Price: Ebook is £6.99 and hardback is £12.99
Selah has waited her whole life for a happily ever after. As the only daughter of the leader of Potomac, she knows her duty is to find the perfect match.
But after an excruciatingly public rejection, Selah’s stepmother suggests an unthinkable solution: Selah must set sail across the Atlantic to visit a series of potential suitors—and if she doesn’t come home engaged, she shouldn’t come home at all.
From the gardens of England to the fjords of Norge, Selah’s quest will be the journey of a lifetime. But her stepmother’s schemes aren’t the only secrets hiding belowdecks…and the stakes of her voyage may be higher than any happy ending.
As soon as I started reading The Beholder by Anna Bright, I was so hooked I read about 140 pages in one sitting which is pretty good going for me! I have a fab signed edition from Fairyloot with pink sprayed edges which deserve a few photos, I’ve also had this edition hidden away for more months than I want to admit haha.
There’s lots of fairytale elements referenced throughout which I loved and some chapters open with snippets from various fairytales, a nice touch I liked. Some characters are even named after various storytellers such as Grimm, Anderson and Homer, we might have a King Athur but we do have a Prince Arthur!
Selah’s stepmother Alessandra is presented as a wicked stepmother kinda character and it’s obvious why as she’s five months pregnant and her husband is ill so clear I think she wants her own child to become Seneschal of Potomac when they’re of age. Alessandra basically tells Selah to come home with a husband or don’t bother coming home at all and thus Selah’s adventure begins.
The world building is intriguing and thankfully there’s no infodumps but it does lack in some aspects. I’m assuming it’s origins are based sometime after England colonised the half the world but abandoned the countries before some colonies gained independence but it’s not too clear on that front.
Selah and her crew set sail for Europe so she can meet potential husbands or “suitors” (A historical version of the Bachelor?) and as far as I can tell England is the only country who’s name remains the same. I made a few educated guesses as to where/what the other countries real name would be which helped me to understand a little better. There are a LOT of characters in this book and it does get hard to keep track of who’s who so I would have a appreciated some sort of list of characters.
I liked the main character Selah, she has some great character development towards the end of the book but she is pretty fickle with regards to her numerous love interests. Thankfully she seems to have some sort of self awareness about the situation.
Though Selah’s stepmother seems to be a real rhymes with witch, the main antagonist seems to be Baba Yaga, the Tsarytsya of The Imperiya Yotne (Who I presuming would be the Tsarina of Russia) and is the only one who seems to inspire real fear in Selah and some of the other characters. I’m hoping we find out more about the Baba Yaga and the Imperiya and why she’s this terrible character (there are hints and small snippets about her dotted throughout the book).
I do hope we see more of the suitors in the next book and that two of the twists revealed at the end of the book are explored more as it kinda feels like they were added in hastily at the end.
It was a well written debut and I can’t wait for the second novel. 4 STARS!