ARC: White Hart by Sarah Dalton

 

 Title: White Hart

 Series: White Hart (#1)

 Author: Sarah Dalton

 Genre: fantasy

 Rating: ★★★½

 In short: an interesting premise, well-written action, and a promising series start.

Goodreads: Mae never asked to be craft-born. She never wanted that burden.

The realm needs magic again, and the the King of Aegunlund has been waiting for the first craft-born girl to marry his son, Prince Casimir.

In Mae’s town of Halts-Walden, the ambitious miller claims his daughter Ellen is craft-born. Mae knows this is a load of hogwash, but she’s glad Ellen will have the unfortunate pleasure of becoming queen instead of her. All she has to do is sit back and wait until Casimir and Ellen are married, then she will finally be free of the threat of her fate. But on that day an event so shocking and terrible occurs that Mae finds herself entering the neighbouring cursed forest on a quest she never thought she’d have to follow.

Join Mae as she rides her white stag through the Waerg Woods with a pampered prince at her heels. She’s out for revenge and nothing, no one, will get in her way.

White Hart had both the good and the bad, but I think that overall it was a satisfying and fun read. The story follows Mae, an outcast in her small hometown because she and her father hang around the enchanted forest—the Waerg Woods—too much. Mae is craft-born, meaning she was born with magic, but she knows the king wants to marry off a craft-born to his heir. So she keeps her abilities a secret and waits for the day that Ellen, the miller’s daughter, marries Prince Casimir so that she’s free from any obligation to become the queen. Things don’t go quite as planned, and Mae and Casimir have to venture into the Waerg Woods together. She’s looking for revenge and he’s looking for his bride-to-be, but the woods are more dangerous than they’d seem.

The story runs by the traditional quest formula, but Sarah Dalton does it well. The exhaustion, the wounds, it’s all here. Without a doubt the journey through the Waerg Woods is the best part about this book. The forest is filled with all this shiver-inducing creatures that Mae and Cas have to escape, and the fear and tension is written really well. It was almost like I was with them and that kind of suspension of disbelief is rare. The action really hooks you into the story, which was all kinds of wonderful. The plot line is a pleasant surprise as well—though it seems cliched, it’s fresher than you’d expect.

What I was uncertain about was Mae.

I don’t know why I’m craft-born, and I don’t really care. All I know is whatever the reason, it has to be more than sitting pretty on a throne. There must be more to life. There has to be freedom and adventure in this world. I want to find it.

Mae’s your typical small-town girl looking for adventure. What I loved was how she was reckless not just because, but since she craves adventure, and it felt far more realistic than a lot of reckless, mule-headed heroines out there. She wants to really live, not exist, and it was easy to relate to that.

That would’ve all been great if not for the fact that I felt she fell too much into the farm-girl trope. This is something I personally have come across way too often. The small-town cynic who wants nothing to do with her power—and she’s so judgmental. Oh, the mean pretty girl laughed at my poorness once, she’s such an undeserving little crap-piece. Come on! That’s petty. I’m also getting real tired of heroes/heroines like these who automatically assume the royalty are total snobs and are completely useless at everything. Yes, you definitely are roughing it compared to their livin’-la-vida-loca, but just because they have more luxury than you doesn’t mean you get to think you’re better than them. In all these stories the hero/heroine who judged is eventually proven wrong, etc., etc., and it’s getting so repetitive that I can tell which royal or noble is going to be the unlikely-useful-fellow-who-is-usually-the-love-interest. It’s really overdone for me at this point.

The supporting characters are great pillars for the story, though. Cas, Sasha, Mae’s dad, even Ellen, all felt fleshed out and interesting. I’m really looking forward to some of the minor characters being dealt with later on in the series. And also a resolution for that ending, wow! I think overall it was a good story, though, and if you can look past what nagged me, then I’d certainly encourage you to give it a go!

I received a free galley of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All quotes are taken from an advance copy and are subject to change.

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