(Cover picture courtesy of Crash Boom Bang.)
Serena knows a few simple things. She will always be owned by a warlock. She will never have freedom. She will always do what her warlock wishes, regardless of how inane, frivolous, or cruel it is. And if she doesn’t follow the rules, she will be tarnished. Spelled to be bald, inked, and barren for the rest of her life—worth less than the shadow she casts.
Then her ownership is won by a barbarian from another country. With the uncertainty that comes from belonging to a new warlock, Serena questions if being tarnished is really worse than being owned by a barbarian, and tempts fate by breaking the rules. When he looks the other way instead of punishing her, she discovers a new world. The more she ventures into the forbidden, the more she learns of love and a freedom just out of reach. Serena longs for both. But in a society where women are only ever property, hoping for more could be deadly.
[Full disclosure: You Are Mine caught my eye on a blog a while back so I requested a review copy from Janeal Falor in exchange for an honest review.]
I thought this was going to be a wishy-washy romance with some good fantastic elements when I requested You Are Mine. I was willing to ignore the romance in exchange for a well-developed world, but Janeal Falor completely blew away my expectations. Trust me, the romantic elements don’t pan out like you expect them to.
Serena is one of those characters that you’re not sure how you feel about her in the beginning, but you learn to love her after the first few chapters or so. What I like is that she rebels against a male-dominated society in her own ways and yet doesn’t go into stereotypical girl power mode that would be completely unbelievable considering her upbringing. When you’ve been tortured by your own father for minor infractions like she has, you’re not exactly going to be ecstatic about marrying some wretched barbarian who killed your admittedly horrible intended. Understandably, she’s more than a little terrified of Zade especially when he doesn’t punish/torture her like her father does even though he technically owns her and that kind of behaviour is expected of him as a warlock.
The plot of You Are Mine is not fast-paced, but that’s really not the point of the whole story. I’d say this is more character-driven and that makes it a much better book than it would have been if it were plot-driven. We get to intimately know the world of Chardonia through Serena’s eyes and get a little outsider perspective from Zade, the ‘barbarian’ foreigner. I love how Zade really isn’t all that he appears to be and that his real character is revealed by the end of the novel. It’s plot twists like that rather than crazy pacing that made me like You Are Mine.
Where do I start with the world-building? The warlocks completely dominating women by making them less than human, the tarnished outcasts, the magic? In short, Janeal Falor has created a patriarchal society that is both believable because of the power warlocks have and is terrifying because of how women are treated like property. And of course warlocks are allowed to destroy their property any time they see fit, which leads to women being tarnished (aka hexed into being bald, tattooed and barren). It’s a horrible society and you can definitely see why Serena acts the way she does around Zade even when it’s obvious to the reader that Zade isn’t like Serena’s sadistic father.
I thought that the plot dragged a little too much in some places (even if it was primarily character-driven), but that’s my only real complaint. Other than that, Janeal Falor has written an amazing debut novel and I can’t wait to see more of her work in the future. Especially with that huge cliffhanger ending!
I give this book 4.5/5 stars.