Title: The Beauty Thief
Series Title: Twelve Realms
Author: Rachael Ritchey
Date Added: February 5, 2016
Date Started: July 13, 2017
Date DNF: July 19, 2017
Reading Duration: 6 days
Percentage Read: 25%
Genre: Fantasy, Christian, Young Adult (YA)
In the Twelve Realms there lives a man who covets life. He lurks in the shadows, intent upon stealing that which sustains his perpetual existence: true beauty. Princess Caityn’s loveliness reaches from what the eye sees to the very marrow of her soul. The thief’s covetous heart desires the life her beauty possesses and will stop at nothing to take it all.
I really wanted to like this. It had characters in royal/leadership positions who were actually decent people. The main character Princess Caityn and her brother Prince Adair were raised with the philosophy that though they were royal, their duty was to serve their country, and though the people of the kingdom might be their subjects, they would never be subjected to corrupt rule. Caityn often visits and comforts widows in addition to reading or teaching lessons at the orphanage, and her boisterous brother Adair was once punished for playing a prank on his sister by having to work “scullery in the kitchen for a week.” This was an excellent way to show that the king and queen not only raised their children to show compassion towards the needy, but they didn’t hold with the elitist idea that they couldn’t perform “common work.” Nor is this attitude unique to the royals of one kingdom. When Caityn’s fiance Prince Theiander arrives for their nuptials, his mother chastises his sister the Princess Eliya for treating a groom unkindly, especially considering he was doing not only his job, but the job of another man who’d recently fallen ill.
So this book had a lot of potential to show kings, queens, princes, and princesses in a refreshingly progressive way (as progressive as hereditary monarchies can be I suppose), but I started to become skeptical at the introduction of Princess Eliya. To put it plainly, she acted like a total bitch not only to that groom (which her mother corrected her on), but most definitely to her soon-to-be sister-in-law Caityn.
“Fine. But I don’t know you, and I don’t particularly care to get to know you. I have plenty of friends and don’t need another one. I’m only willing to try for Theiandar.”
What the actual fuck? Now, granted there’s a potential plot reason behind her behavior, but it so blatantly put her into the camp of antagonist that the driving force of the plot became extremely predictable. This isn’t really all that egregious since it’s obvious from the title that something is going to happen with Princess Caityn’s beauty, and I did like how that wasn’t the only thing that was stolen.
The main reason I declared this DNF was due to the conflict being washed out by the constant exposition. Everyone’s feelings and state of mind are shown over and over again, and this was especially true for Adair after the story’s catalyst. He’s constantly thinking and saying how despite Caityn’s predicament he loves her anyway, which is great, but it doesn’t need to be repeated ad nauseum. Caityn is guilty of this, as well, with the inner workings of her mind being on constant display. There’s no surprise, no divining what the characters are thinking from their actions, and the over exposition really stalled the flow of the story.
What was odd was the beginning didn’t suffer from this at all. The examples from Caityn and Adair’s past did a great job revealing how they were raised from their conversation. It seemed natural that siblings who hadn’t seen each other for a while would reminisce about their shared childhood. It was also clear that Theiandar would fit in perfectly with this family upon his introduction, and the book really had the potential to be a sweet, fairy tale like adage about beauty’s truth.
The only X factor I can think of that lowered the quality is the conflict itself. All of the above showed a well working family unit ready and willing to welcome another kindred spirit into their ken, but I think the author had trouble incorporating a contrarian cog into their midst, and then when the main character became an even more contrarian cog, the clash was too much.
Add to this that the book has a Christian lean to it, and it further explains why I had issues getting through it. I’m obviously not against Christian Fiction/Fantasy, but I lump it with urban fantasy i.e. it’s really hard for it to hold my interest. That seems anathema since it’s common knowledge how much I love religious symbolism, but that’s the thing. I love religious symbolism. I don’t like when the motifs are overly blatant, especially if it’s overly blatant and the most common religion. Christianity is already deeply woven into the public sphere. Its major holidays are celebrated on a federal level, and even people who aren’t a part of it know about it, because it’s impossible not to.
So when a book is too heavy handed with it, I tend to lose interest quickly, unless it’s symbolic. I loved Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet (A Wrinkle in Time), which has a number of religious allusions in addition to promoting the author’s love of science (the latter which is possibly a big point in its favor), and C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia is a straight up religious allegory with a lion Jesus and the last novel a YA re-imagining of the Book of Revelations. Nor do I need to mention Final Fantasy VII (though obviously I am), which is another religious allegory that symbolically utilizes all of the 7 Seals and Four Horseman in addition to a myriad other things. It’s not really so much a matter of a book being Christian Fantasy, it’s more about the story using the symbolism in a way that’s not trite.
I’m not going to judge The Beauty Thief on the religious aspect since that’s more of a personal preference (in the same vein as my view on FPS games), but I will rate it based on the tell vs. show logistic, which is the main reason I decided to put it aside.