Set some eight years after the last Everealm book, it follows Princess Sarita in her quest across the realm to gain magic. It's definitely time to follow the new generation of characters, but it's still nice to see a few mentions of the guys and girls of Everealm mark 1. Sarita was one of my favourites from the "old" series, so it was wonderful to follow her adventures. Yes, the idea of getting magic from some vaguely named stones scattered across the realm is pretty straight-forward, and there's a lot of walking around without actually finding anything, but it's refreshing to read a simple story that's well told. Sovereign is less about the destination than the journey, and the "road-trip" makes for an enjoyable, easy read.
Joining Sarita is best friend Gabby, her ex Oliver and Sarita's admirer/borderline stalker King Cassidy. Their chemistry and believable banter were a joy to read, although Cassidy's insistence on calling Sarita "his princess" when she repeatedly (and I mean repeatedly) told him not to wore thin. There's a fine line between the act of flirtation and the act of being a sex pest, and that line was crossed on occasion. Gabby and Oliver's respective partners, Garrison and Calista, were along for part of the ride, although they seemed a bit surplus, and Calista in particular grated on my nerves. But one of the great things about this series is that it's so sprawling that if you don't like a character, you don't have to wait too long to be back with one you do like. I've always loved author J.D.Wright's ability to write life into characters and interactions that could be incredibly boring. And not once was I bored even though there was a lot of riding and camping and bedding down for the night. Seriously, how many authors would put their manliest male characters in nightgowns for a couple of scenes?
This boundless world and character building is one of my favourite things about this series and this adventure does have the same feeling of liberated freedom.
J.D's books tend to err on the adult side of things, so I was a bit concerned about how I'd deal with reading sex scenes between characters who were ten years old in the book I was reading just a few months ago. But thankfully this is one of the tamer entires to the series, the only one who really gets any action is Sarita's horse (which to be honest, I could have done without reading!) so it's not a horribly jarring transition.
I wasn't a huge fan of the introduction of faery Emery, just because it felt a little bit rushed. She's a cute character, but her magical mate bond with wizard Asher seemed a little bit contrived. When Sidonie and Dagan were matched up despite their personal circumstances in the first series, it was a love-hate relationship that worked out, but here it just feels like we're going over old ground. It was nice to find out a bit more about Everealm and the lingering animosity between certain magical beings, but it felt a bit like more of the same.
An absolute must read for fans of the Everealm series, but a definite recommendation if you're looking for a fun, easy read in a world set far far away!
And then it was on to book two!
I got both books as part of the tour, and dived right into Sparrows the instant I was finished with Sovereign. Did I enjoy it as much? Not quite.
At three stars, this is the lowest rating I've given any book in this series - even though I still really enjoyed reading it and in no way has it put me off reading the rest - for two reasons.
One; repetition. We had the "magical mates who hate each other but are fused together by magic" plot in Sovereign with Asher and Emery. Okay, they didn't hate each other per se, but him being a wizard and her being a fairy meant that it was a coupling that neither were happy with. And we get another dose of that in Sparrow with wizard Jake and magic-hating Calista. Which brings me to my next issue.
Calista. Urgh . . . just . . . urgh! This foot-stomping, slut-shaming, pain in the ass was a problem I encountered in Sovereign, but she wasn't too prominent so I could deal with her character. I wasn't entirely sure why she was there, but she was pretty inoffensive. Not so in Sparrows. She's front and centre for a big chunk of the book and is just, so, annoying! Just when the story should be dealing with Sarita and the princess losing her fire for something she's been searching for and dreaming of most of her life, it switches to this shining beacon of human idiocy for a loooong time. Sometimes authors do such a good job of writing a character that you find insufferable that they become a pro and a con at the same time and that's definitely the case here. Well written, believable character? Check. Walking annoyance that you'd cross the street to avoid? Check.
Calista's relationship with Jake was a sticking point for me too. Them getting together wasn't the issue, it was obvious from the end of book one, but I'm not sure I'm a fan of these magical pairings that stick people who hate each other together and there's nothing they can do about it. Gabby and Oliver's relationship is lovely because you believe they want to be together. I'd much rather read about characters who are together because they want to be, rather than two people arguing then having sex because magic dictates that they sort of have to. Everything's very neat, with pairs of heterosexual couples and no odd numbers so someone is sleeping alone or same-sex couplings, which is a little bit disappointing given the lack of diversity in YA and the potential for some in this enormous world that J.D.Wright has created. Fair enough, some stories don't have scope for that kind of thing and sometimes it's just not the author's bag - forcing diversity for the sake of it can sometimes be worse than lacking it - but at book seven, I was kind of hoping for something to break the mould.
Skimming over the Calista stuff - it's good news everywhere else. Cassidy has dialled down his stalker-ish tendancies, and is now a much better character, quietly accepting that Sarita doesn't love him and isn't going to marry him (although, do any of us believe that?), retreating to his castle after assigning his mage to guard her. Gabby and Oliver finally, sort of get it back together. It's still a long road, but the pieces are falling into place. Bless my beloved Sarita though! After trekking all over the realm in search of a magic-bearing stone (which doesn't quite work as she intended. I won't go into spoilers, but that plot point had me like . . .)
Song of Sparrows is a great read, and dreamily titled, although I did get a little bit of deja vu in terms of the plot. Perhaps it's just because I leapt from book one to book two so quickly that I didn't have time to decompress. And if I hadn't been so averse to one of the characters I'd probably have given it four stars. It's magical and uninhibited and more than a little bit spicy, my kind of read!