Thank you NetGalley and Bloomsbury YA for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
***Please beware of spoilers***
Synopsis: Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects ancient worlds--each with their own magic--together. For generations, the inn has protected all who seek refuge within its walls, and any who disrupt the peace can never return.
For Maddie Morrow, summers at the inn are more than a chance to experience this magic first-hand. Havenfall is an escape from reality, where her mother sits on death row accused of murdering Maddie's brother. It's where Maddie fell in love with handsome Fiorden soldier Brekken. And it's where one day she hopes to inherit the role of Innkeeper from her beloved uncle.
But this summer, the impossible happens--a dead body is found, shattering everything the inn stands for. With Brekken missing, her uncle gravely injured, and a dangerous creature on the loose, Maddie suddenly finds herself responsible for the safety of everyone in Havenfall. She'll do anything to uncover the truth, even if it means working together with an alluring new staffer Taya, who seems to know more than she's letting on. As dark secrets are revealed about the inn itself, one thing becomes clear to Maddie--no one can be trusted, and no one is safe . . . (Amazon)
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Genre: Fantasy / YA
Rating: 3 stars
Havenfall combines two of my guiltiest reading pleasures, fantasy and mystery, to deliver the story about a girl tasked with the job of overlooking a safe house between magical worlds during a time of strife.
In theory, the story could be exciting: humans and two of the fantastical worlds that have an alliance come together once a year to celebrate and discuss matters of their worlds so that they may continue to live in accord. The innkeeper, our lead's uncle, is usually the one who oversees everything. But after the door to one of the other worlds opens again, which has been sealed for years due to a war that broke out where lives were lost, death comes knocking again and the innkeeper is left unconscious and unable to continue overseeing his duties. Enter Maddie, who has dreamed her whole life of having this role, feels that this is what she has been working for, and while nervous, believes herself to be ready to face whatever Haven needs in order to keep others safe.
It's an entertaining read, and I greatly enjoyed the mystery reveals that occurred. But the story fell flat for me. While it aspires to be rousing, it doesn't reach that potential. The whole thing delivered just a little monotonously, and I felt that most of the characters were sorely underdeveloped save for Maddie and maybe Taya, to some extent.
One of the elements that I always delight in, especially in fantasy novels, is the antagonist. There is so much room in this genre to make the “bad guy” anything you want him/her to be. The Silver Prince fell so short. Not only do we only see him a handful of times, but we never get to know him. What motivates him and moves him, other than the need to take over the keep and reign? Why does he want this? We're not given enough information, and while a handful of his actions are imposing enough, and he manages to brainwash Maddie fairly easily, the strength that he could have as a being is just not there.
Maddie is very believable in the doubt that she has in herself to do her job as innkeeper. She knows nothing of what needs doing and has no problems reaching out to others for help. She does have a ridiculously easy gift of trusting the wrong people, however, and keeps mentioning this throughout. It's almost as if she tells the audience “Most people I trust lie to me, here, let me show you,” while it continues to occur again and again. It's repetitive. Almost everyone in this book has something to hide, and a secret to reveal. It happens so often that we keep doubting whoever appears next in the novel. It's fantastic for what the author accomplishes as far as the story's mystery, and yet it's so ironic that our lead doesn't seem to catch up.
While there is a clear love triangle playing out between Maddie, Brekken and Taya, I was so glad to not see the usual stereotypical tug of war that tends to happen. Love triangles are one of my least favorite tropes in stories, because usually they're overdone. Sara Holland wrote it well, showing the intense attraction that is to be expected between Maddie and Brekken with the years that they've known each other and the bond that has been growing between them since they were children, as opposed to her newly developed closeness toward Taya.
Havenfall itself... I definitely got the sense of the town, and it did—as Maddie points out at one point in the story—feel like an old western type of world in which to live. It's still charming, well run down, full of vegetation and woods nearby. It does a really nice job of conveying how isolated the keep is to the rest of town and how suspicious and full of gossip others are about the place.
The ending, as I have been reading too often with books lately, came far too swiftly and easily. There is going to be a second book, surely, especially with the way that Havenfall closes. But we could have taken a little longer to see the conclusion of this one develop and play out. More time, overall, was needed with this book to expand.