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eARC Review: Under the Oak Tree: Volume 1 (The Novel) by Suji Kim

Release Date:  12 November 2024

Rating:  4/5

Synopsis:  Most fairytales end with a wedding and a happily-ever-after—but this is no fairytale. The updated and official translation of Under the Oak Tree, the #1 webnovel on MANTA.


The gorgeous first edition hardcover of Under the Oak Tree: Volume 1 (The Novel) will feature designed sprayed page edges, full-color patterned endpapers, silver foil stamping on the cover, and a ribbon bookmark!

 

Lady Maximilian is the daughter of the powerful Duke Croyso, but she is rarely allowed outside her family’s sprawling castle for fear that her stutter will tarnish their noble name. When she is forced to marry Sir Riftan, a lowborn knight caught in one of her father’s schemes, Maxi doesn’t dare hope for happiness, let alone love. Her stumbling communication and his gruff manner sour their relationship before it can begin, and Riftan leaves without a word the morning after their vows are exchanged.

 

Now, three years after their disastrous wedding night, Riftan has returned as a war hero. To Maxi’s surprise, despite rumors that he was offered marriage to Princess Agnes, a beautiful and renowned sorceress, Riftan still wants Maxi for his wife. And when he comes to claim her, his longing becomes a desire that bewilders Maxi, even as she is overcome by the scorching heat that Riftan’s presence ignites within her. As she learns to navigate the intricacies of her new life, Maxi will find herself and her courage, and discover that she is anything but powerless.

 

This volume collects chapters 1-76 of the original webnovel by Suji Kim.

 

Review


Serial web novels, though I am largely unfamiliar with most of the main platforms (I only knew of Kindle Vella before finding out about any others), can be quite amazing, as it turns out.  Under the Oak Tree took me by surprise.  I love the arranged marriage trope in romances, and Under the Oak Tree (so far) does it in a way that kept me engrossed the whole time I was reading it.  Maxi and Riftan, along with all of the Remdragon Knights turned out to be just what I needed for a rainy, cloudy weekend.  A word of caution, however: those who do not like reading “spice” (explicit sexual content) may enjoy this book but will have to skip a LOT of parts.  


Maximilian Croyso lives under an extraordinarily abusive beast of a father, and she’s sold off to a knight whom the Lord Croyso finds abhorrent.  For the Lord’s new son-in-law, however, the feeling is entirely mutual, and though he marries Maxi, he leaves for a ridiculously long military campaign immediately after the marriage is consummated.  I’ll avoid just rehashing the plot too much and boil it down:  Riftan comes back for Maxi, despite her impression that he desires not to, and he’s not happy that she didn’t move out of her father’s house and go to her new estate of Anatol.  He takes her there, and once she emerges from under her father’s oppressive and utterly abusive treatment, Maxi slowly begins to thrive.  Slowly.


Stories of people blossoming and healing (and finding love) after terrible abuse number among some of my favorites.  Kim writes fantastic, round characters full of depth that I couldn’t help but love.  I even find the cantankerous mage, Ruth, who treats Maxi exactly as he would anyone else, completely endearing.  Add that to the high-fantasy, medieval setting with nearly every kind of fantasy creature, and the story was catnip to me.  I can completely see why Under the Oak Tree is the phenomenon that it is.


The only drawbacks for me were minor and nothing I wasn’t utterly distracted from:  the storytelling is a bit simplistic for me, but it got better as the novel progressed.  The miscommunication completely frustrates me, though that is entirely preference.  Lastly, the spice is quite prolific.  While I read books with and without it, there was quite a lot here, and I feel the two main characters were nearly always having sex instead of building a relationship based on communication, mutual respect, and a deep knowledge of one another.  Maxi knows her maidservants and the castle mage better than she knows her own husband.  I do hope that changes in future volumes.  I love deep connections between love interests.


Overall, 4 stars out of 5.  The book really was like catnip, and I will most likely purchase it for my library.  


My profuse thanks to Inklore and Penguin Random House via NetGalley for the eARC (and for giving me a book that kept me glued to the pages), for which I willingly give my own, honest opinion.


If you’re interested, you can find the Kindle edition of the novel, with all 6 volumes of Season 1 and the first 5 of Season 2 here on Amazon.



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