Review: Power Born

I was so pleased to be selected as an advance reader for Aya Ling's upcoming fantasy novel, Power Born. I've been a huge fan of Aya Ling ever since reading her Unfinished Fairy Tales series about a time traveler who ends up in the world of "Cinderella" and falls for the prince. Power Born is a spin-off of Aya's Reversed Retellings series that takes place in the same world but does not follow the same format of gender-bending popular fairy tales. Instead, it focuses on what she does best by challenging gender stereotypes in a unique fantasy setting. Similar to the Entwined Tales series that Aya participated in about a bumbling fairy godfather who messed up everyone's magical gifts, Power Born is about two siblings whose magical gifts are accidentally reversed. Chiara, who was supposed to receive the gift of beauty, got the supernatural strength that her brother, Cristian, was supposed to receive instead. What follows is a Jessica Jones-inspired adventure that just happens to take place in a fairy tale setting.

Power Born by Aya Ling

You might think it would be great to have supernatural strength. Chores would get done much faster, and no one would dare to be mean to you for fear that you might beat them to a pulp. For Chiara, that strength poses a huge threat to her place in society and more of a burden than a blessing. As the daughter of a lowly baker, she must do everything in her power to fit in and act like a proper lady if she ever wishes to raise her social standing. Her overprotective mother never considered that a bumbling fairy would make her precious daughter as strong as an ox. If anyone found out about her unnatural abilities, Chiara would lose the knight who is courting her and never find another suitable match. To hide her powers, she obtains a magical bracelet from a mage that dilutes her ability from the strength of ten men to the strength of one. She must wear this bracelet at all times to avoid breaking tables or accidentally injuring people, which would be very unladylike.

This story had a lot of potential. I have enjoyed shows about innocuous-looking women with the ability to beat up men twice their size such as Jessica Jones or Dark Angel in the past, but I felt like something was missing here. Though Chiara uses her powers for good and recovers stolen merchandise from a gang of bandits, the final battle in the book seemed to come out of left field, which made for a less than satisfying resolution. I would have preferred it if the entire story revolved around Chiara stopping the bandits whose actions were having long-term effects on everyone in town. Her desire to recover the stolen merchandise is what sets her apart from a less sympathetic man who might have been gifted with the same powers. Most of my favorite parts of the book took place at the beginning, such as when she dresses up as a boy and saves her chauvinistic boyfriend without his knowledge.

This book contains a love triangle, but it's the kind where one of the guys turns out to be a jerk, which quickly eliminates the competition. Franco is a royal knight who appears to be a good match for Chiara, but over time, he shows hints of insincerity and downright dickishness. The second love interest is a prince named Leon. Of course he's a prince. Leon is built up to be a better match for Chiara, but she spends so much of the story being devoted to Franco that we never get a real opportunity to see why. That's the challenge with love triangles. We need to see enough interactions between both potential pairings to get a good feel of who we're rooting for. I don't think Aya Ling accomplished this with Leon. By the end of the book, I felt that I knew a lot more about Franco than I ever did about Leon. I was more involved in the relationship between Chiara's brother, Cristian, and her best friend, Sofia. They were an interesting pairing because Cristian, who had been accidentally blessed with Chiara's beauty, was desired by every woman in town while Sofia was plain and tried to draw attention away from herself. I was rooting for Sofia to give into Cristian's heartfelt advances for the entire book.

Power Book reads like a book that wants to be a fairy tale and an epic at the same time and never quite finds its footing. It was an interesting choice to make Chiara a baker's daughter instead of a princess, but I found myself wondering why she and her brother were chosen to receive magical fairy gifts at birth when no one else in this world seems to have them. What makes them more important than the royal family to receive such blessings? I also wished this book had a more compelling love story. It was so split between revealing that Franco wasn't right for Chiara and Leon was that there was no time to include any tender moments between them that I've seen in Aya Ling's other books. I also wish that the story built up to Chiara's final battle gradually instead of tossing it in as what feels like an afterthought. If you are a fan of Aya Ling's fairy tale books, I would only recommend this one if you have nothing else left to read. However, if you are a fan of strong women like Jessica Jones, you might enjoy this more historical take on the story. Power Born will be released soon.

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