The Shattered Court by Melbourne-based M J Scott is the first in a new series, The Four Arts. It reeled me in with the beautiful cover and equally intriguing blurb at a time when I was still coming off the high of having read Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse series.
Consider yourself forewarned. This is the most shallowest of novels if there ever was one, only masquerading as something of reasonable substance.
The royal witches of Anglion are immediately bound by rites of marriage once they manifest magical powers. The binding ensures they serve their husbands and country with their powers, by ensuring things such as good harvests and their husbands’ good health. Anything more than these tamed use of magic is considered dangerous and forbidden.
Sophia Kendall, thirty-second in line to the throne, is only days away from finding out if she will manifest magical ability, when an attack on Anglion forces her to to flee the court with Lieutenant Cameron Mackenzie, a member of the royal guard. While in hiding Sophia’s powers manifest, stronger than she imagined inextricably linking her and Cameron in the process.
Now Sophia is a witch unbound by the rites of marriage, considered a threat to the established order of her country and a weapon for Anglion’s enemies. As she discovers the truth behind the traditions of her country, Sophia finds herself torn between using her powers to protect Anglion or succumbing to the temptation of keeping it for herself.
Given the above summary, I was completely sold on the premise of this novel. I have come to develop a liking for novels with court intrigue and as a result may have pressed the ‘buy with a click’ button on Amazon a little too hastily. Therefore, at the very least, I need to congratulate whoever dressed this book, for a job well done.
The Bad and the Ugly
The characters are all one dimensional and the relationships more so. Sophie talks of trust and respect for Cameron after a mere three days and one night (if you catch my drift) of knowing him, yet they never have conversations and liaisons long enough and/or substantive enough to warrant it. Similarly, Cameron develops strong feelings for Sophie almost overnight too, which increase further still despite any substantial interaction with her. Moreover, mere hours prior to meeting and falling in lust and/or love with Sophie, he is happily sleeping with her friend. After his one night with Sophie, his illicit affair all but disappears, conveniently.
What made matters worse was that Sophie is eventually led to believe that what Cameron and her share is just an illusory effect of her newly manifested magical powers. She brings this up with Cameron but is quickly convinced otherwise by Cameron’s excellent lovemaking skills, never to question it again. A similar fate also befalls her becoming aware of Cameron’s prior relationship with her friend. So to conclude, even though the book is not erotica, there is limited basis for the lead characters relationship beyond the physical and Scott does a poor job of convincing you otherwise.
Further, both characters are utterly unremarkable with no attractive qualities to speak off. It was very difficult to root for them and cheer them on because (a) they did little of anything of great consequence and (b) what they did say/do was so grossly moronic.
The world building is limited and tiresome at best. I seemed to have missed whatever Scott wanted to pass off as intrigue. There was nothing eventful about the narrative (unless you count the graphic sex scenes that alerted to the book being new adult/adult fiction and not young adult fiction). Basically, it is just words on a page that start and then end. If there was a climax and/or a cliffhanger I was too disinterested to pick up on it.
I often question my love for YA fiction considering my age but this novel (and a few others over the years) re-affirm my devotion to the genre. The average young adult protagonist, be it Gus Waters or Percy Jackson, in dystopian Chicago or present day New York, have a lot more depth and dimension than Sophie and Cameron.
In short, if you are a fan of historical romances or fantasy romances of the bodice-ripping variety, feel free to give The Shattered Court a go. That being said, I have it on good authority (by leading Goodreads reviewers and having read some of the genre myself) this maybe no where near as satisfying. It was very superficial for my tastes, particularly when there was ample scope for it to be a decent read. Care to disagree? Sound off below.