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ARC Review: Wishtress by Nadine Brandes


Release date: 13 September 2022

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis: She didn’t ask to be the Wishtress.


Myrthe was born with the ability to turn her tears into wishes. But when a granted wish goes wrong, a curse is placed on her: the next tear she sheds will kill her. She needs to journey to the Well and break the curse before it claims her life—and before the king’s militairen track her down. But in order to survive the journey, she must harden her heart to keep herself from crying even a single tear.


He can stop time with a snap of his fingers.


Bastiaan’s powerful—and rare—Talent came in handy when he kidnapped the old king. Now the new king has a job for him: find and capture the Wishtress and deliver her to the schloss. But Bastiaan needs a wish of his own. He gains Myrthe’s trust by promising to take her to the Well, but once he gets what he needs, he’ll turn her in. As long as his growing feelings for the girl with a stone heart don’t compromise his job.


They are on a journey that can only end one way: with her death.


Everyone seems to need a wish—the king, Myrthe’s cousin, the boy she thinks she loves. And they’re ready to bully, beg, and even betray her for it. No one knows that to grant even one of them, Myrthe would have to die. And if she tells them about her curse . . . they’ll just kill her anyway.

 

Review


I think this may be my favorite Brandes book yet. I have read two others: Fawkes and Romanov, both of which I found interesting but not quite as unique as the world built in this one. I will include my reviews for both of them in my review backlog on my blog, which I will eventually get to between teaching and other life stuff.


The strength of this book lies in the fulfillment of its premise promise. The synopsis hints a plot that will deliver a developed world with a unique magic system and a love story between two people caught on either side of the “who gets to be magical” debate. Brandes executed this flawlessly. I absolutely loved the complexity of the narrative and how the story blended well with the world building without any info dumps or deficiencies in the plot or character development.


The absolute best part of this book is the narrative. Just how much of a gimmick is the magic system or fantasy element for any book? I grade this by how well the story would work if there were no magic in it, as I sometimes ask myself when I read fantasies. I find that the stronger plots always work well if I can answer yes to this question. Brandes’ Wishtress would very much still be a fantastic book if no one in it had magic.


Aside from the plot, Myrthe and Bastiaan make a great leading pair of characters. The relationship starts off well, I did not feel the two suffered from instalove (though there are zero things wrong with instalove romances), and the two gradually come to a recognition of love for each other through an intimate understanding of the actual person and not the special abilities and superhuman beauty of the other. Myrthe’s beginning is tragic, traumatizing her right from the start, and she must work through that in order to let others in and get to know her for who she is and not what she can do. Bastiaan, whose talent makes him technically an immortal, gives a good balance to Myrthe’s guarded heart with his insistence on helping those who’s have been abused by the line of kings ruling the land for centuries. Though there is a strong connection between them immediately, the two fall in love so gradually throughout the narrative that they, and maybe the reader, won’t realize it until they’ve declared their feelings to one another.


Brandes also masterfully crafts side characters and villains. In this book, the side characters could honestly be main characters and the book just have an ensemble, all-star cast. Too much detail on these can spoil the mystery and twists revealed at the end, so I won’t delve too deeply or draw attention to any one specifically. I just feel they're all so fantastically written.


I find only that the book needed a teeny bit better pacing and some polishing in the grammar/usage area. I don't doubt the latter will be fixed by the time of publication, so it's just the pacing that was an issue for me. It wasn't terrible, either. I've seen it wasn't even an issue for most other reviewers, either, so I may be just me.


Overall, 4/5 stars. I will be buying a copy of this book. In fact, I’ve have it preordered for a while. I took my time reading this, as it was complex and I think rushing through it for me would have made me miss out on some of the subtleties of the message. It is an allegory, after all. I heartily recommend this for young adults to read. It’s blessedly appropriate content-wise for the age level.


My thanks to NetGalley for the ARC, for which I willingly give my own, honest opinion.


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