Review: Audette of Brookraven

The Entwined Tales book series introduced me to many authors I had been previously unfamiliar with. Of them, Shari Tapscott was far from a favorite of mine. Still, I couldn't resist when her novel Audette of Brookraven, was being offered for free along with several other books from the Entwined Tales authors as a holiday promotion. Since I didn't have very expectations for it, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy of a read this was compared to the sample novellas from her mailing list. This was largely thanks to the quirky antics of the main character, Princess Audette (not to be confused with Princess Odette). The plot, on the other hand, left much to be desired.

Audette of Brookraven is the fourth book in Shari Tapscott's Eldentimber series, which consists of tales about various princesses from various lands. It's difficult to properly summarize this book because the story is all over the place, which is an issue I've had with all of the work I've read from this author. It's a fantasy, but not a complex one. It's a romance, but not a deep one. She gets some props for being one of the few princess authors who writes original stories instead of merely adapting classic fairy tales, but the original stories she comes up with seem only half-realized, with many important details glossed over. Even though each book is set in a different land, this one just feels like a generic fantasy kingdom.

The love story was the most interesting aspect of this book because it was told in such an unconventional manner. At the beginning of the book, Audette is in an arranged marriage to Prince Irving. When she decides to briefly leave the bridal suite and risks being seen in public before the wedding, she switches gowns with her lady-in-waiting, Milly, in order to avoid suspicion. As a result, Prince Irvine wrongly assumes that Milly is the princess he is engaged to and Audette is a noble lady living at the castle. When she plays along with this ruse and finds that Irving hits on her anyway, she loses all interest in marrying him, thinking that he is a scoundrel who would cheat on her with any other noble lady who crosses his path. This opening scene is what drew me into the book. It's a clever and peculiar situation that paints a clear picture of the sort of person that Audette is. Unfortunately, things get a bit muddled from there.

I was excited to learn that this is a story about unicorns, but the way it incorporates them is a lot closer to the movie Legend than something like The Last Unicorn. Princesses and unicorns often go hand in hand for no other reason than that they both appeal to same type of person. Like in the movie Legend, the unicorns in Brookraven were just there for the sake of being there. Audette is drawn to them and becomes determined to protect them from an unknown threat. The monster she must fend off has the ability to change her hair color, similar to what Elsa's ice powers did to Anna Frozen, but that alone doesn't feel like much of a threat. In fact, it isn't actually revealed what sort of danger the characters are in until the end of the book. While that does leave more time to focus on mending the relationship between Audette and Irving, it's a little frustrating not to know anything important that's happening in the story.

Overall, Audette of Brookraven is a fun character study, but not so much of a compelling read. Audette has all of the traits you would expect from a modern princess. She is strong, brave, clever, independent, and a secret romantic. Seeing the story through Audette's eyes is the only thing that makes it worth reading. Her interactions with Irving are both humorous and entertaining. The other people in her life such as her brother and her lady-in-waiting are equally compelling characters. I just wish the story had more going for it than throwing together some unicorns and a monster with no real direction.


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