Wednesday, June 13, 2018

ARC Review: Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Perez

Title: Sweet Black Waves (Sweet Black Waves #1) 
Author: Kristina Perez
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Publisher: Imprint
Pages: 448
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//I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review//
Not you without me, not me without you.

Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.

As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what's right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she's ever loved.

Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen. For fans of Graceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance.

Sweet Black Waves caught my eye as soon as I saw that it was a retelling of Tristan and Eseult. I'll admit, my only other exposure to this story was the 2006 film Tristan and Isolde, starring James Franco... I had a rough idea of what the story was about and knew to expect instalove, so I went in willing to forgive that one trope that I usually despise.

Branwen is the heroine of this story. She's cousin of the princess and a healer-in-training, although she doesn't believe in the Old Ones or their magic. The story really begins once she finds a injured boy who has washed up on the beach, and takes it upon herself to heal him in private. Through a series of events, she finds out that he's her enemy, and their romance ensues. I'm pleased to report, however, that there is SO much more to Branwen's story than her instalove romance! Branwen was a wonderful, strong character, and probably one of the least annoying I've read about in awhile. I loved her relationships with her cousin and aunt, the queen, as well as watching her realize her power. That's not to say that she didn't make any dumb decisions, because she definitely did, but they're understandable dumb choices that I was willing to forgive.

I've mentioned briefly the other characters in this story, and I honestly loved almost all of them. Tristan is the enemy and love interest, and I fell in love with him as soon as he washed up on the beach! He was a little cheesy at times, but his loyalty was heartwarming and I can't wait to see more of him in book two. I also really adored the queen, Branwen's aunt, and loved her portrayal of a strong woman at the helm of a country. Her love for both Branwen and her daughter was unconditional and beautiful. Finally, there's Essy, Branwen's cousin and the one character I really couldn't stand for most of the book. She's young and incredibly selfish and stupid, although she did start to grow on me just a bit towards the end.

The setting of Sweet Black Waves is also fantastic! It felt both realistic and otherworldly, which I suppose fits pretty well with the story. The world the author has created is as easy to picture as a movie and the mythology was very well realized. I'm curious if the stories of the Old Ones and the Otherworld have roots in a real world mythology.

The one thing that wasn't perfect for me in this book was the story and the pace at which it moved. At nearly 500 pages, this book is long. Admittedly, there was a lot of information to fit into this book, but it did seem to drag at times and it took me a little longer than I would have liked to get through. Until the end I would have called it predictable, then the ending happened. There is a twist that literally made me sit up straight and caused my husband to ask what was wrong! I totally didn't see it coming and it immediately moved this book's rating back up to 4.5 stars.

Sweet Black Waves isn't a perfect book, but I loved it! Yes, there's instalove, but that's to be expected in a retelling of this particular story. It didn't diminish the romance in my opinion. I still came out loving both Branwen and Tristan! And there's a bright side: no love triangle! Although the story can get tedious at times, it's definitely worthwhile. I can't wait to read the next book in this series!