Review: Pathways

Pathways by Camille Peters is a new series of fairy tale adaptations that is currently on sale for $0.99. I couldn't argue with that price, so I decided to check it out. The book is loosely based on "Rumpelstiltskin" and "The Princess and the Pea." It's different from the other fairy tale novels I've been reviewing in this blog because it lacks the suspense and adventure that they had and focuses entirely on romance. In fact, the story has no villain at all and very little conflict, making it a slow read. It seems like something that would be right my alley with my love of princesses and romance, but none of the characters were particularly appealing, especially the love interest. By the end of the book, I had absolutely no desire to see Eileen get together with Aiden.


Like many princess stories, the main character in Pathways starts out as a peasant girl. Eileen is a skilled artist, a lot like Elaine from Goldheart, another "Rumpelstiltskin" adaptation. However, Eileen feels more like an outdated Rodgers and Hammerstein heroine. She starts out by saying she will never fall in love and winds up doing just that. Back in the '50s, that used to be a traditional character arc for women, but today, princesses make it pretty clear whether or not they want to fall in love and stick to their decision, no matter how much other people try to convince them otherwise. Not only that, but for someone who is so mistrusting of men, Eileen lets Aiden get away with some pretty shady stuff. For instance, when he first meets her, he attempts to slice off a lock of her hair without permission, misses, and accidentally slices her neck. That's not creepy at all, right? It only gets worse as the book goes on, but Eileen continues to forgive him over and over in spite of her stubbornness about love.

Romance aside, the first half of the book is incredibly slow. Eileen spends most of her time in an enchanted forest that continuously morphs its paths akin to Pan's Labyrinth. Even though the forest is different every time she goes there, she feels safe within its trees and trusts them to always guide her home. The forest guides her to beautiful areas that she draws in her sketchbook. She thinks that she was the only one who knows its secrets until she meets Aiden. Her encounters with him in the forest go on for much longer than they should with absolutely nothing of interest happening in the story. Rosie, Eileen's best friend, tries to convince her that she is in love with Aiden even though she never actually sees them together. It starts to feel as though the story is forcing Eileen to fall in love with Aiden in spite of her own wishes.

The second half of the book is inspired by "The Princess and the Pea," but without the pea or the tower of mattresses. The forest leads Eileen to a castle where she is mistaken for a long-lost princess and must compete for the hand of the prince against her own will. She soon learns that Aiden lives in the castle as well, and the rest is painfully predictable. By this point, the lack of a villain really starts to hurt the story. I saw every plot twist from a mile away, and there were no obstacles between Eileen and her happy ending. In fact, Aiden felt more like a villain than any other character, including the mean-spirited princess. I was so angry with Aiden for his actions by the end of the story that I felt like he was entirely undeserving of Eileen.

Pathways is a forced love story and very little else. It doesn't work as a fairy tale adaption because it does absolutely nothing to enhance the fairy tales that inspired it. Eileen could have been a stronger heroine if she had stayed true to her word of never falling in love, but everything in the book seems to revolve around proving her wrong. Her relationship with her parents is more interesting than her relationship with Aiden, but it never gets explored, even she obsesses over her father's mysterious disappearance. I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had focused on Eileen learning the truth about her father instead of on a relationship that she never wanted in the first place.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Wow, what timing, I just finished this book! I actually loved it! I thought it was such a sweet, magical story that had a distinct fairy tale feel. I didn't find the love story forced at all; I loved how both Eileen and Aiden had misguided fears about love, and how throughout the story, both grew and allowed their budding relationship to help them heal. I really enjoy watching flawed characters become better in books. I also thought the first half of the book really developed their romance and allowed Eileen to open up her heart rather than continue to allow the pain of her past dictate her future, growth which was all set against the lovely backdrop of the enchanted forest.

I thought the second half had terrific pacing, and although it was admittedly predictable (as most books are for me, haha), I was still engaged in the journey because I was invested in the relationship and enjoyed seeing the unique twists of the two fairy tales, which I thought were cleverly done. (Like how for Rumpelstiltskin, instead of turning straw into gold, he was helping transform a common girl into something royal, all while seeing her internal worth that he valued more? *melts at that cuteness* Perhaps I just loved that as it touched my "I want to be a princess and my best self" loving heart!)

I don't know, this one just clicked with me. Maybe I'm just more into slower paced, sweet stories with less action, lacking a huge villain (except for the heroine's own inner fear), and with more romance and character development, haha. Plus I'm a nut for symbolism and loved the entire pathways theme. Maybe it's just a style thing. I love how there are so many types of authors in the world so everyone can find ones they resonate with! I still enjoyed your review and your thoughts! Well done, as always.

Also, after your lovely review of "Goldheart" a few weeks ago and now having you refer to it in this review, I think it's a sign I must read it!

Wow, I gush too much about books, haha. Thanks for another insightful review. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it more! I hope your next read is better. (Can't wait to see what it is!) Thanks for continuing to write such good reviews. Can't wait for the next one! I love your blog. Keep up the good work! :)
Lisa Dawn said…
Thank you for your kind words! I hope you enjoy Goldheart as well as anything else on your reading list! At this point, I'd have to say my ideal author is JM Stengl, who wrote the Faraway Castle books. I've chatted with her a few times on social media too, and she's absolutely lovely! She even follows my blog. :)
Anonymous said…
Oo, I've been meaning to read JM Stengl! I must do that! So many books (especially as fairy tale retellings become more and more common!), not enough time! JM Stengl's Sleeping Beauty retelling looks so intriguing! From what I've gathered (mostly from your review, actually ;), it takes place in a magical garden! How cute is that! I may start with that one first. Can they be read as standalones? Which is your favorite? :)

I can't wait to start Goldheart! I tend to try and read books in order, so I haven't read that one yet as I feel weird about skipping Traitor's Masque, but I'm just not as interested in that one! (I don't like betrayal tropes. Not very magical.) Wait, this tendency to need to read books in order may make me unable to read "The Rose and the Briar" first either, haha. Oh, the dilemma! What's next on your reading list? :)

Haha, I don't know why I don't comment more; you're fun to talk to! I must make more of an effort to reach out! :)
Lisa Dawn said…
Hi again! :) JM Stengl's books can definitely be read as standalones. The main characters in each of the books are barely in the other ones. It's really hard to choose between The Siren and the Scholar and The Rose and the Briar as my favorite because I'm biased toward "The Little Mermaid" adaptations but the "Sleeping Beauty" one was just so creative and magical! I feel like every book she writes gets progressively better. She just revealed the cover for her next one, The Lady and the Wish, on her mailing list! I recommend signing up for her list because she sends recommendations for books by other authors as well, which is how I found out about Pathways. The next one on my list is The Tower Princess by Shonna Slayton, which I also learned about through JM Stengl's mailing listing!

I would agree with you about skipping over Traitor's Masque and starting with Goldheart for Kenley Davidson's books. It had a much more innocent feel to it. It was a little hard to believe they were both written by the same author!

I hope to hear from you again soon!
Anonymous said…
Thanks for your detailed comment about books! I just signed up for JM Stengl's mailing list! :D Your comments also helped me make my decision––I think I'll definitely read "The Rose and the Briar" first as, again, magical garden! :) But then I also love "Little Mermaid" adaptations and don't think that story is retold done enough! Guess that one will be next! Then I'll likely do Goldheart. (Haha, sorry, don't know why I'm giving you a play by play!)

This will be good for me to get over my anal tendencies to read books in order! Sometimes I don't like an author's first book, but I'm always hesitant to give them another try, but many times when I do I like their next books much better, especially when they grow as an author; most writers really improve their storytelling in subsequent books. It amazes me when the same author's books have such different feels (which looks like the case with Kenley Davidson. So interesting!). Maybe if I just start with an author's book that intrigues me most rather than insisting on reading them in order, I'll make things easier for myself, haha! ;) It looks like you did that after not liking Traitor's Masque––you tried Kenley Davidson's other books and liked them better? (Or did you not read them in order?)

Oo, "The Tower Princess" also looks intriguing. ("Romeo and Juliet" meets "Rapunzel," it looks like? And it's even on sale!) Thanks for the recommendation! Goodness, so many books! Help! (Haha, not that I mind having this problem! ;)

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me! And thanks again for your blog! I will definitely reach out again! :)
Lisa Dawn said…
I'm glad I could help! If you have a Facebook, I actually prefer their interface for comments than blogger's. I post links to all my new posts on my page at www.facebook.com/theprincessblogger, so you're welcome to comment there if it's easier for you.

The first Kenley Davidson book I read was A Beautiful Curse, which was my favorite fun the Entwined Tales series, but I started her Andari Chronicles series with Goldheart because she was giving it away for free for a short time. After that, she had a promotion for the first three books of the Andari Chronicles for $2.99, so I went back and read the first one and then the third one, Pirouette, which was my favorite.

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