Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review: Sacrifice - Cayla Kluver

Sacrifice by Cayla Kluver
Series: Legacy Trilogy #3
Genre: YA, fantasy, romance
Published on October 23, 2012
Published by Harlequin Teen
Pages: 438
Read From: 5.17.13 - 5.19.13

Alera, queen of a fallen kingdom, secretly in love with the enemy. Shashelle, daughter of a murdered father, rebel with a cause. 

One lives behind the former Hytanican palace walls and walks the razor's edge to keep the fragile peace in her beloved homeland. The other slips through the war-torn streets, seeking retribution for her family's tragedy, following whispers of insurgency. 
Both face choices that will separate them from those they cannot help but love. As their stories intertwine, a conspiracy ignites that may end in slavery or death - or lead to freedom anew, if only each can face what must be sacrificed.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Definitely not. I love the curlicues and even the dress (though the sleeves are not my favorite), but I dislike the character impersonator - a lot. And like Allegiance, it looks like a cheap Christian romance.

Characters: I really wish that I could say Alera has improved in some minuscule way. I wish I could say that I managed to like her toward the end of the book. I wish I could say that she has become something of a character and has begun to learn what it means to be a leader. But my job is to write honest reviews, and to say such things would be the furthest thing from the truth. Alera, as Grand Provost, is the "voice of the people." She hears their complaints and takes an active interest in her peoples' lives. At least, she's supposed to. But Alera is too busy worrying over how to get her family and friends to accept Narian as her future husband, and she is woefully uninformed when it comes to her former kingdom's concerns. She hears petitions every day, and yet she somehow manages to remain ignorant of how the Cokyrians are not allowing the rebuilding of the churches, the harsh punishments doled out to Hytanican citizens, and the general unrest. Everyone else knows what's going on, except Grand Provost Alera - the "voice of the people." The one who is supposed to represent them and see to their welfare. And when she does finally learn some of what's going on in her province, what's her solution? A festival! Yes, let's throw a festival to boost everyone's morale. True, a festival can be a great way to momentarily divert general unrest and make things feel a bit better, but morale isn't what Alera needs to be tackling at present. She needs to be compiling a report for Narian to take back to the High Priestess in Cokyri. She needs to be meeting with her privy council and actually discussing problems with Narian, rather than making out with him on her study's desk. And what about Shaselle, Sacrifice's second protagonist? I held some hope there when I first began reading this novel. A girl whose family has been torn apart by war, and who is actively seeking retribution for her father's death - sounds great, right? We'll get to the "seeking retribution" later; right now, let's just talk about Shaselle herself. She was nothing special. Only slightly less annoying than Alera, Shaselle spends all of her time whining about dresses and needlepoint and accepting suitors, and doing everything possible to destroy what little trust her mother has in her. Shaselle complains about her mother's restrictiveness, but considering how many times this girl goes gallivanting off into the dark streets, alone, and pointedly ignores her mother's very reasonable request to be home at such-and-such time, I thought her mom was downright lenient. Shaselle did nothing to help herself. She wanted to help with the rebellion, and got irritated with her uncle Cannan when he told her she would only be a hindrance. And yet, whenever Shaselle got an opportunity to prove her worth, she did the exact opposite and put the rebellion in jeopardy - not to mention her own family members - more times than I can count. The only redeeming character in this entire trilogy - London - was barely in Sacrifice. I got so desperate that I even decided to like Steldor, who seems to have had a complete personality rewrite. Where he was once an arrogant, selfish jerk, Steldor was a courageous and caring cousin to Shaselle - definitely not the Steldor I knew and hated in Legacy and Allegiance. I will give the Author props for the High Priestess and her shield maiden, Rava - they were fairly convincing villainesses. Rava not so much; she displayed her swagger and cockiness a bit too often to be truly threatening, but she did get a lot accomplished. The High Priestess, meanwhile, keeps her cool most of the time, and isn't afraid to go to extremes to get what she wants, and I appreciated that.

The Romance: Okay, when I first started reading this series, I liked Narian. Out of the two love interests, I supported Alera's choice in falling in love with Narian rather than Steldor. But I really grew to dislike him in this final installment, and it's mostly because a story that should have been focused on political quarrels and rebellion, was instead focused on Narian and Alera's relationship. Narian's presence in a scene always heralded yet another kissing, cuddling, and overall horribly mushy scene that I really grew to resent him, and I wouldn't have been at all sad if he had died. In short, the romance in this drove me up a wall. I was so sick to the teeth with Alera and Narian making googly eyes at each other, and just barely restraining their passion, that I even hated Shaselle's love interests, and deep down I actually liked the two boys she was attracted to. They were both nice. But I didn't want to read any more of that girly stuff.

Plot: Cokyri has invaded Hytanica, turning it into a province. The High Priestess has removed Alera's royal title of Queen, and has instead named her Grand Provost, answerable to the High Priestess, but still overseer of Hytanica. Narian has been set up as Commander of the occupying Cokyrian forces and liaison between Hytanica and Cokyri. But while Narian and Alera are working hard to create a peaceful existence between the two people, the High Priestess is making that a bit difficult with many of the strict laws she is demanding be put into effect that restrict the Hytanican way of life. Alera's people aren't interested in becoming Cokyrians in any form whatsoever, and rebellion is quietly brewing behind the scenes. My optimistic side kept insisting, "Maybe this will be all right. With rebellion just over the horizon, something has to happen, right?" But this trilogy has never delivered when it comes to a fast pace or action, and my more practical side gently chided my optimistic side: "No, it will be worse than the other two; just you wait and see." Well, my practical side was correct. The rebellion and general unrest takes backseat to Alera and Narian's continued difficult romance. Alera spends all of her time wandering around the palace - now called the Bastion, - hearing petitions (which we Readers never get to sit in on), eating dinner or lunch or any other form of mealtime, and waiting in her apartments for Narian's nightly visits, where they cuddle and coo and generally make themselves silly. Occasionally, Alera actually takes some interest in what's going on in her kingdom, but usually can't be bothered. And when rebellion finally does happen, Alera spends the whole time in her bedchamber, and by the next chapter, the rebellion has been subdued and we Readers are subjected to yet another dinner - this time with one of Shaselle's suitors. We don't get to read about the subduing - heck, we don't even get to read about the rebel leaders' executions! With Shaselle "actively pursuing retribution," you would think that we get some action in her narration. Nope. She runs around the streets like a headless chicken, squawking about as loudly as one, and then eventually returns home for another chastisement from her mother and Cannan. She's also always conveniently elsewhere when something interesting happens, and we never get to be in the thick of things. So basically, the plot goes like this: Alera plods around the Bastion, has dinner, changes for bed, waits for Narian, cuddles with Narian, falls asleep, wakes up to sleepily ask Narian an irrelevant question, and then goes back to sleep, only to start the whole routine over again in the next chapter. With Shaselle, she gets up and has an argument about either dresses or suitors with her mother, starts to head outside, her mother tells to be home by such-and-such time, and Shaselle leaves with absolutely no intention of listening to her mother. Then she goes and does something stupid that gets her into lots of trouble - and causes even more unrest between Cokyrians and Hytanicans (in fact, Shaselle is behind a lot of what goes wrong for, well, everyone), - then returns home to get yelled at by her mom some more. And the next day is the exact same. That's the whole story of Sacrifice. There are a few demonstrations of Cokyrian cruelty, but all that did was cause even more frustration with the characters. Rava is Narian's second-in-command, and she is constantly flouting Narian's orders. And he never does anything to stop her. It's no wonder no one takes Narian - and Alera - seriously! They're in positions of power, and yet they stand there like petulant children, their faces screwed up in indignation, threatening to do something Rava will regret if she doesn't listen, but they never do. I half expected them to stamp their feet for good measure.

Believability: Well, there's the fact that Alera is the most unbelievable leader figure in the history of literature. She's not even a good figurehead. She insists that her people will follow her, that Cannan and her other military leaders would never go behind her back, and that is exactly what they do! They keep her completely out of the loop when it comes to the important stuff. And if her people accept her so thoroughly as their ruler, why do they chant Steldor's name? The second rebellion was also way too smooth for my liking.

Writing Style: This is about the only place that this novel succeeded. The Author's writing has very markedly improved from her first novel, Legacy. She has abandoned her copious clothing descriptions and actually has a pretty flair to the general tone of the story. However, a lot could have been cut out of this book - namely, the reiteration of Alera's daily schedule and every single one of Narian's night visits. Many of those latter scenes could have been combined, and some just left out entirely. The style itself, though, is rather nice.

Content: 1 g--damn. Alera and Narian sleep together (pg. 417). It's not detailed, though. They disrobe and do it, and that's that.

Conclusion: Again, my optimistic side chimed in and said, "Here! Another rebellion - maybe this will make up for the rest of the dragging plot!" But once more, my practical side won. Alera is yet again conveniently absent for the big climax, and Shaselle ventures out on the streets just long enough to realize how horrific killing really is, and then spends the rest of the takeover holed up in a cellar. The conclusion is also where Alera makes her ridiculous assertion to the High Priestess that her people respect her as a ruler, and that her military leaders would never go behind her back or flout her. As I said, that is exactly what they do - they flout her commands and go behind her back as completely as anyone possibly can. The few surprising "twists" (if they can, indeed, even be called that) that occur did nothing to even briefly penetrate my glazed expression of boredom. Sacrifice was, without a doubt, one of the most boring books I have ever read. And in that respect, it fits in right along with its other two books - Legacy and Allegiance. Only worse. It was pulling teeth, reading the last 100 pages of this book, and I never want to do it again. Thank goodness I am done with this trilogy.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, sixteen-and-up, great for fans of this series!

Others in This Trilogy:

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