Review: Fierce Heart

Fierce Heart by Tara Grayce is the first book in the Elven Alliance series, a love story between a human princess and an elf. Unlike her Princess by Night series, which only has one book, Elven Alliance has a healthy amount of both primary and tie-in novels. It contains a fully fleshed-out fantasy world with Tolkien-style elves that live hundreds of years. One of the many things I liked about it is that it demonstrates how true love can be a choice if both parties are willing and isn't something a person needs to sit around waiting for, hoping that the perfect partner will just show up one day. This is the second book I've read by this author in which the main couple falls in love after the wedding. The first is Stolen Midsummer Bride, which focuses on the fae court instead of the elven one and does an equally good job of showing how arranged marriages don't always result in misery for either party.

The main character in Fierce Heart is a princess named Elspeth, or Essie for short, who is a wonderfully lovable protagonist. Unlike most princesses, who try to fight against arranged marriages, Essie is a compassionate optimist who makes the most out of every opportunity. She never expected the elves to accept her kingdom's offer of a marriage alliance. When they did, she jumps at the opportunity to explore the elven kingdom and to form a romantic bond with an elf prince that she found very attractive upon first sight. Luckily for her, Farrendel finds her vibrant personality endearing and puts forth his best effort to make their marriage work. I cannot stress enough how excellent Essie is as a character. She doesn't have enough skills to fall into the "Mary Sue" trap, but her flaws are vastly outshined by her compassion, sincerity, and unwavering sense of loyalty to both the human and elven kingdoms. Her positivity allows her to take the elves' prejudice against her in stride, never allowing their offhanded remarks to come off as personal attacks.

Though it takes a while to get to know him, Farrendel turns out to be a great match for Essie. He is incredibly shy but a great listener, which complements Essie's outgoing nature. He does his best to show his affection toward her with actions instead of words, and she slowly but surely convinces him to open up to her when he needs to. His upbringing causes him to feel inferior to the rest of his family, so it is up to Essie to show him that he deserves to be loved just as much as anyone else. Both Essie and Farrendel have fiercely protective families that love them very much, which is another refreshing twist on the typical orphan or "lone wolf" protagonist trope. It gives both of them another level of understanding toward each other and proves to everyone that interracial love can be just as strong as any other type. Essie balances her loyalty to both kingdoms beautifully throughout the book, enforcing that she considers both places to be her home.

Fierce Heart takes place in a Dungeons and Dragons-inspired world, so an alliance between a human and an elf is plausible because one of the race options in that game is to be a half-elf. This book explores the intricacies of that sort of relationship and how it might be frowned upon by some and admired by others. Tara Grayce adds some unique details that set this world apart from other DnD stories, such as how the elves' long silky hair comes from a magical shampoo and that their cities are built on treetops with branches and platforms to travel from tree to tree. The mortal enemies of the elves are trolls, known in the DnD realm as orcs. These dangerous brutes are likely the main antagonists from the other books in this series. They play a small role in Fierce Heart, adding some danger and excitement to the climax, but the book is far more focused on the romance than the logistics of the trolls and does not refer to any of them by name.

The first book in Tara Grayce's Elven Alliance series transports readers to a fully fleshed-out fantasy world filled with vibrant characters and an enchanting love story. What sets this book apart is its exploration of true love as a choice rather than a happenstance. Essie's vibrant personality and devotion to both the human and elven kingdoms shine through the prejudice and challenges she faces alongside Farrendel, whose actions speak louder than words. The chemistry and growth between Essie and Farrendel demonstrate that love knows no bounds and that interracial relationships can still thrive. In this Dungeons and Dragons-inspired world, Grayce seamlessly blends the intricate dynamics of an elf-human alliance with unique details, such as magical hair care and breathtaking elven cities. While trolls add an element of danger to the story, Fierce Heart focuses primarily on the captivating romance. Tara Grayce invites readers into a world where love defies expectations, alliances are forged, and characters inspire with unwavering loyalty and compassion.


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