I received this ARC from NetGalley and Swanifide Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for giving me the chance to read it!
This was my first book I received from NetGalley and I think I made a good first choice. I am a sucker for fairytales. They’re classic, fun, and always end with a happy ending (something that I am a sucker for). Lucky for me, A Stolen Kiss (Stolen Royals #1) by Kelsey Keating is a brand new retelling of the less popular fairytale, The Swan Princess. I didn’t realize that when I first requested it but in a time when retellings are all the rage, it was a pleasant surprise.
In her debut novel, Ms Keating takes us on an adventure journey filled with magical surprises.
A stolen kiss. An unstable curse. One big mess in the making.
Derric Harver never expected to amount to anything more than the palace stableboy, but when Princess Maria’s curse keeps her from accepting a prince’s proposal, she turns to him for help, and he doesn’t dare refuse.
With the help of a lady’s maid and a prince, Derric and Maria embark on a dangerous adventure to find the sorceress who cast the curse. Along the way they battle deadly creatures and make new friends–all the while struggling with the undeniable chemistry between them. Reaching their destination won’t be easy, but the true danger peril in the truths they’ve fought for years to keep hidden.
A Stolen Kiss is the first in the Stolen Royals Series–an adventure with magical creatures, dangerous lies, and being true to the power within.
The plot line was a pretty basic fantasy story – A cursed princess runs off with a group of friends to find the one who has cursed her and force them to remove it, all the while falling in love with the peasant boy. However, being that this was a retelling of The Swan Princess, it was actually a surprising turn of events that I didn’t expect but I won’t spoil them for you. I did enjoy the fact that unlike most fairytales, the princess wasn’t saved by her knight in shining armor (or prince), even if our stableboy has some other secrets of his own. I also thought that Keating did a really good job of world building, explaining things when needed and not leaving the reader confused. It was a nice touch creating a world where the fairytales were the actual history of the land.
Unfortunately, the characters fell a little flat for me. I didn’t enjoy the chapters told from Maria’s POV, as there wasn’t much substance to her. While it was part of her story, she actually brought nothing to the book other than being the one who was cursed. She was pretty much just there, kind of a like rock. I didn’t feel any connection to her, nor did I feel like her character had any depth or development. I felt the same way about Sarah as well, granted she’s supposed to be only 14. Hopefully, since this is only the first book in a planned series, that may change as the series progresses.
Derric and Humphrey were more fleshed out as characters than the two girls were. They both carry secrets that threaten the stability of the group and the mission. Obviously, Derric has the biggest transformation as the book moves along and his character does have some very interesting moments where his inner struggles come to light. However, I was hoping to see more of that. We were only given a couple of situations where it became an issue, even though it was hinted at quite a bit that it was important. I guess I just wanted his dark side to play a larger role than it did, and it’s disappointing that it never reached that level. I’m looking forward to seeing if it plays a part later on in the series. Unfortunately, Humphrey’s secrets don’t really cause him to make any drastic character changes and he pretty much rides a steady path the whole way through.
Ellis was definitely my favorite character, even if we only get to see him a few times throughout the book and never for very long. I guess that says a whole lot about how I feel about our main group, huh? Ellis is your typical grey character. He walks that line between good and evil, only helping when it benefits himself. I know he was used just as a catalyst for some characters to deal with their issues, but I felt more interested in him than anyone else. I think we will be seeing more of him in the future.
I think the biggest issue with this book is the writing itself. In terms of style and level, it was a bit juvenile and I think would be better suited towards Middle Grade rather than YA. The characters were also supposed to be around 18 years old, except for Sarah who is 14. However, Keating voiced them as though they were actually much younger, with all of them sounding as though they were 14, especially Maria. It kind of clashed with the plot line and was sometimes a bit annoying. The explanations for some of the spell clauses were confusing too. Instead of there only being a couple mentioned, we are bombarded with multiple and I had a hard time keeping them straight and understanding the differences. I felt it was a bit excessive and not really needed.
All in all, this was a fun book. It doesn’t bring anything new to fantasy or fairytale novels but if you’re in the mood for a lighthearted read or just need to buy something for your little sister then this book is for you.