(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
Marisa MacCallum always believed that the man of her dreams was out there somewhere. The problem is—he’s in another dimension.
After the death of her father, eighteen-year-old Marisa’s life is on the verge of imploding. She seeks comfort on her daily ride through the woods of Gold Hill, but when a mysterious lightning storm strikes, she is hurled into the ancient, alternate dimension of Carnelia where she is discovered by the arrogant but attractive nobleman, Ambassador Darian Fiore.
Stranded in a world teeming with monsters, maniacs and medieval knights, Marisa is forced to join Darian on a dangerous mission to negotiate peace with his cousin and archenemy, Savino da Rocha. Along the way, she starts to see Darian’s softer side and finds herself falling in love. But once she learns that he is locked into an arranged marriage, her heart shatters.
When Savino falls for her charms and demands her hand in exchange for peace, Marisa is faced with an impossible choice: marry the enemy of the man she loves or betray them both and become the catalyst for a bloody war.
[Full disclosure: I requested and received an ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
Some books you can tell right away that they’re going to be amazing. (Or amazingly bad.) Others it takes a little while to tell. And still others, like The Carnelian Legacy, you really aren’t sure of until the very end. I’ll explain.
From the first page, I loved The Carnelian Legacy. Marisa is a young woman who has gone through the unthinkable: not only did she lose her mother at a very young age, she just lost her father in her last year of high school. She’s grown up so quickly because her life has been shattered and then, when she seeks out a little peace in the woods of Gold Hill she’s thrust into a whole other dimension. Not only that, she’s stumbled into the middle of a very dangerous political situation where even the slightest misstep could mean the deaths of thousands on her conscience. When Marisa met Darian and Arrie (the prince and the diplomat, respectively) I began to have my doubts about The Carnelian Legacy. Although I loved the beginning, I felt apprehensive about where Cheryl Koevoet was taking the story. Was she going to turn a fairly interesting and unique premise into your typical love at first sight story?
Throughout the novel, there were times I would have answered yes and times I would have answered no because of the many, many plot twists. Some were predictable and some weren’t. But what really clinched it for me is in the end when I thought I had figured out everything and seen through the upcoming stereotypical plot twist, Koevoet changed the rules. In a good way! She defly dodged a predictable trope by combining many other older tropes to create something new and fresh. It was such a relief. So when you’re reading this book, you really do have to give the plot a chance right up until the end. It might turn out the way you think, but the journey will be very, very surprising.
That said, even if the plot had fallen flat on its face, I would still have enjoyed the book. Marisa is a character after my own heart. She grew up way before her time and had to play the adult from a very young age. Not only that, she had to decide whether risking everything for love was really worth it or whether she should do the responsible, practical thing that might bring about love in time. So you could say I’m a bit biased but Cheryl Koevoet really made Marisa come to life. She really portrays her frayed emotional state well without making her melodramatic. Anyone who has experienced loss in their life will understand Marisa’s frequent mood swings and crying spells, believe me. Especially since not only did she lose a parent, she lost her remaining family and was transported to another dimension where only a handful of people speak her language.
Darian is a wonderful male lead. Some people will probably be frustrated with him and all his contradictions but I think it made him far more realistic. He, like Marisa, has had to shoulder adult responsibilities from a young age and that has made him slightly paranoid and unwilling to trust anyone. Just when you think he’s on the brink of opening up about his past or his feelings, he shuts down once again as he reminds himself of his duty. His romance with Marisa is far from straightforward, just like in real life. Confessions come from both sides at inconvenient times, feelings don’t always stay constant and both sides make enormous mistakes at one time or another. But that’s what really clinched The Carnelian Legacy for me: it was very realistic in its depiction of a relationship with so many outside forces exerting pressure on it.
The world-building was also very good. While this is obviously not a political thriller, Koevoet did a good job of making the politics of the kingdom believable. Everyone had their own motivations, even the secondary characters, and nothing was as it seemed. She also presented a very interesting view of alternate dimensions that I haven’t really seen in science fiction/fantasy before. I can’t explain it without spoiling some of the plot points, but suffice it to say you’ll be pleasantly surprised. There was even a realistic depiction of religion in the kingdom that I thoroughly enjoyed because Koevoet was able to create religious characters without being preachy (unlike some authors). It was a refreshing change.
Basically, while I was very skeptical about the novel at times I am so glad that I stuck with it because it really is amazing. It’s definitely one of my better NetGalley finds and I can’t wait to read the second book, The Carnelian Tyranny.
I give this book 5/5 stars.