Title: The Beholder
Author: Anna Bright
Pub Date: June 4th 2019
My Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
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A lush, sweepingly romantic YA debut perfect for fans of The Selection or Caraval
Selah has waited her whole life for a happily ever after. As the only daughter of the leader of Potomac, she knows her duty is to find the perfect match, a partner who will help secure the future of her people. Now that day has finally come.
But after an excruciatingly public rejection from her closest childhood friend, Selah’s stepmother suggests an unthinkable solution: Selah must set sail across the Atlantic, where a series of potential suitors awaits—and if she doesn’t come home engaged, she shouldn’t come home at all.
From English castle gardens to the fjords of Norge, and under the eye of the dreaded Imperiya Yotne, Selah’s quest will be the journey of a lifetime. But her stepmother’s schemes aren’t the only secrets hiding belowdecks…and the stakes of her voyage may be higher than any happy ending.Lush landscapes, dazzling romance, and captivating intrigue mark the first leg of this stunning alternate historical duology with richly drawn characters and unexpected twists at every port.
The Beholder is a story of Selah, only daughter of the leader of Potomac. Her father is in poor health, and soon she may have to take over the leader position in her country. However, as a seneschal-elect, she first needs to marry in order to be considered as a fully qualified leader of the country… This is the first issue I had with the story. The first scenes in the book is a ball where Selah is officially proposing marriage to a boy she adores, who was kind to her, and who she idolized. I was hoping that in the society where the daughter can take over as a seneschal from her father, and where she is the one to propose we will not end up with what happened next. When Selah is rejected by Peter, the same night Potomac’s council meets and her stepmother says that Selah, the very next day, needs to go on an epic journey to court new husband because she will not find anyone else in Potomac that will marry her.
Her stepmother is presented as the evil and her father as the poor, naive guy that is being manipulated by his wife. I hate such representation of characters, especially that we were told that this is the case with Selah’s parents, and we were presented with nothing that gives us evidence and allows us to conclude that this is the case. I especially hate the portrayal of Selah’s father as such a kind and poor man, who loves his daughter, but for some reason does nothing where Selah is sent away on a journey that must have been planned for months. He suspects nothing, doesn’t ask questions how and when the expedition was planned, and why Alessandra was so sure that the expedition will be needed so to invest time and money of a poor country into the plan that if Peter said yes, will not be needed? And why doesn’t even try to have a serious conversation with his daughter? He just meekly agrees with his wife, and to Selah, he says sorry that it has to be like that.
Already we are starting with weak characters and poor story-telling. Then we need to spend time with Selah. She is naive and passive. She notices some questionable activities, but besides noticing them, she does nothing. Just continues brooding over her situation. She has extremely tense relationships with everyone she meets, from the start she is in some bizarre hate relationship with ship captain Lang, which confused me a lot, because there was nothing that would explain why she was so angry with him, and the book mentions ceasefire between those two few times. Did I miss some major argument they had? All her relationships jump straight to hate or love without any proper buildup and explanations why. She stands up for some people, saying that they are her family even though before in the story she barely exchanges a word with them.
Selah in the book meets two potential husbands, one in England and second in Norge. She falls in love with them both in the two weeks she spends with them. This girl can go from zero to a hundred real fast. I hate how they both were described as such a kind, handsome, caring guys, that are different from other boys around. They are without a flaw. The story is at its core, a story of a girl that is loved and loves all the boys she meets, and just cannot choose who she wants the most. But there are politics sprinkled on top of that, in an attempt to make things interesting. It didn’t work… All the political action happens around Selah, but she is oblivious to it all, her sole focus is falling in love and she imagines that it will solve all her problems. She doesn’t stop to consider why she was sent on this mission, and what people from The Beholder’s crew are doing. She notices something, but never tries to figure out what that is because look, there’s a boy with pretty eyes!
The politics and the fear of foreign empire were added probably to add more substance to the story, but they weren’t properly explored, only used as a fear that should inventive Selah. Selah should fear the big, bad monster of the country that invades territories and is violent (nevermind she doesn’t have an issue with accepting the trophy from siege in Norge) but please, give us more information about why we all should be afraid of this country.