Asperfell

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 28 Jan 2020

Member Reviews

Asperfell is a wonderful fantasy book. The setting is different from any fantasy book that I have read. Convicted mages are sent through a one-way gate to another world instead of being put in a local prison. Briony did not show any signs of being magical, but after the king was allegedly killed by his son, his other son sentenced his brother to Asperfell and cracked down on anybody with magical abilities.

After an illness, Briony and her sister were sent to live on the distant family estate with an aunt. Eventually they were hunted down there under suspicion of being magical. To help save her kingdom, Briony goes through the gate to Asperfell to find help. The book ends on a cliff hanger and now I am impatiently waiting for the next book to come out.

I received an advanced copy of this book through NetGalley and thoroughly enjoyed it.
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TW: Attempted sexual assault and sexual abuse is mentioned via memories

Asperfell follows Briony, the privileged daughter of one of the king's men. It starts off when she overhears that the king is dead and the crown prince is the killer. She along with her family, see the son, Elyan, be banished to Asperfell. Asperfell is a prison that was created for mages who have committed terrible crimes. Once the mages have been banished, they can never come back. Briony is set to the countryside after she falls sick. She is raised with her aunt and nothing really happens until one day, a letter arrives from her father informing her that he has been accused of treason and that she needs to go. Briony is captured by the king's men and is set to be executed. Through a series of events, she escapes to Asperfell. There she meets mages who have been imprisoned, some for many years and Elyan, the exiled crown prince. Asperfell has a dark secret and Briony starts to discover her powers. She hears whispers of unrest and her plan to escape suddenly becomes more desperate.

I had my issues with Asperfell and mainly because I felt as if the story dragged. The first half felt extremely long and I found my attention fading while trying to read. The first person point of view was odd since Briony is 8 years old at the beginning of the book. There was social commentary from an 8 year old that read much older. The book didn't really take off for me until about 75% in. I love world building but in Asperfell I wanted to skip it all. The magic was pretty cool and standard so I dont have an issue with it. The book tries hard to appear gothic but for me, that wasn't achieved until about 75% in. Sure, the old house, spirits, and odd people were all included but didn't have a dark feel to it.

Briony was fine but not memorable. I will say that her magic was pretty cool. Props to the writer for giving Briony the one gift that she requires her voice. The romance between Briony and Elyan was expected but it also fell flat for me. I wish they had had more interactions away from Elyan having something smart to say. Another issue that I had was that I have no idea what the characters look like. I know that Briony has red hair, fair skin, and freckled. Elyan has dark curls and bright blue eyes. Everyone else had maybe one description of their hair or eyes but that is all. WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE?

As mentioned above, the story have a few attempts of sexual assault. Asperfell is a fantasy book therefore literally anything can be added and taken away. I am tired of women (in books and general) being subject to sexual assault.

Shout out to NetGalley for allowing me to read this book in advance in exchange for an honest review.
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Asperfell is a delightful surprise of a book. The cover does little to call attention and in truth, the novel does not get off to a good start, leaning pretty heavily on YA fantasy tropes, but in my opinion the storytelling and worldbuilding more than redeem the piece. Most of what follows will contain spoilers to some degree, but I'll try to avoid them.

Briony and her sister Livia are nobly born young ladies and Livia, the elder, is the perfect courtier and Briony is a wild child. This is a world where magic manifests young, so when Briony falls inexplicably feverish and is then hastily shipped off to the country an experienced reader will recognize that her ailment came from being a late bloomer. The king, by the way, hates mages because one killed his father, I suppose, though his uneven treatment of them is a little bewildering. (As an important note, the mage who killed the king's father was the king's older brother, Elyan, who was sentenced to imprisonment in the eponymous Asperfell, which is another world only accessible by mages through a gate.) Please note, it takes almost a quarter of the book for the narration to cover more than events occurring elsewhere, not to Briony, but the author nevertheless keeps the novel interesting and moving apace. One thing leads to another and when Briony is twenty her father's efforts to protect mages and control the young king go badly and she is discovered, but unexpected allies cast her into Asperfell to save her life, imploring her to find Elyan and bring him back to save the realm.

Within Asperfell there is more worldbuilding that takes place, embellishing what we already know about mages and developing a cast of characters who are entertaining, if a little bit predictable. People who cling to their nobility even after being cast into Asperfell are basically unpleasant. Younger, prettier people who are more likely to be relatable to Briony (and the reader) are more likely to be good guys (good guys who are in mage prison, let's not forget). The prison world setting feels fresh because it is a fantasy world and not a futuristic dystopia, and I enjoyed that. I do have a slight quibble with the number of young characters appearing, given the fact that sentencing mages to Asperfell was a practice that was tapering off and then cut off nearly completely. More people should have been middle-aged or older. But it was truly refreshing to read a fantasy novel with a female protagonist who wasn't in her teens for the bulk of the action. As a male lead, Elyan checked a lot of my boxes, and being positively ancient for a fantasy hero (twenty eight!) was just delightful. A character I can appreciate without feeling like I'm committing a crime.

Another thing I liked a great deal about Asperfell was the development of relationships between characters. It takes seasons for them to get to know one another, and by the time things start to move faster, there are some wonderfully written scenes of slow burning yearning that I went back and reread a few times before moving on. And I must say, even my desire to linger over well-written scenes was insufficient to keep the plot itself from pulling me in and pulling me forward. I stayed an hour late at work in the hope I'd be able to finish before I went home for the night (and not just because characters did sensible kinds of historical research in addition to interviewing magical shadows for information, which always makes me happy as a librarian).

Author Thomas gives readers a lot of clues throughout the piece, alluding offhandedly to events which took place in the past or to intriguing side characters who seem to be only passing fancies. Most notably the importance of two names that are mentioned early in the book as part of what looks like your everyday worldbuilding infodump but which prove to be very important later on. I tested myself to see if I could recall them any better than the characters, having read them within twenty four hours rather than several years and nope! Well done, Thomas! The Cat was another of those things that seemed to be a passing curiosity and turned out to be indicative of more important matters. Myself, I was just glad that he didn't turn out to be like The Magicians' Cancer Puppy. I cannot help but hope that an early mention of the young queen of Sidonia, who kept her claim to the throne by killing her rivals in their beds, will prove another such mention later in the series, because she seemed badass. (I assume this is a series because I desperately want another book with these characters.)

Speaking of series, the ending to this book was exciting, if a bit drawn out. The peak of the action happens and then there's a smaller action sequence that follows and it winds down into a kiss at a campsite that I pray means the book's sequel (please sequels!) amounts to more than a prolonged camping trip through dangerland (looking at you, Rowling). I'll still read it, because there are several loose ends I very much want to watch resolve, but I'd like to see more intrigue and human interaction than fighting beasties, because it was the human interaction and social worldbuilding that made Asperfell appeal so much to me.

Anyway, terrific book. Definitely recommended for fans of YA fantasy or lighter adult fantasy who are tired of reading about teenage assassins but aren't in the mood for grimdark. Also, I want a print copy when it's out in paperback.
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Conspiracy, vivid characters, and clever uses for magic.

When the king is murdered and the crown prince banished to the magical prison of Asperfell, Briony Tenebrae follows her family to the capital, where her father is chief advisor to the new King Keric. The young girl is curious and intrepid, and more interested in eavesdropping on political meetings or chatting with the master mage than learning etiquette. As King Keric grows in age and cruelty, his edicts spread paranoia of mages across the kingdom, and Briony is sent with her sister to a distant family house. Sequestered with an aging aunt, Briony relies on annual visits from her father's servant to receive news of her family, the capital, and the tragic fate befalling those with magic. However, no distance is truly safe, and in a whirlwind of events, Briony finds herself dragged from isolation, scrutinized by the king, then charged by her closest friend to do the one thing that can stop King Keric - find the crown prince in Asperfell.

I loved Asperfell. It is both dark and chilling yet charmingly provincial. Unreformable prisoners dwell in the caverns underground, guarded by stalwart Battlemages. Necromancers tend the graveyard, careful to (try to) not raise the dead. Others tend the garden, mend clothes, and mind the kitchens - all with the aid of magic. 

I'd encourage those who struggle with the opening chapters to at least read as far as Briony's arrival in Asperfell. For me, this is where the book really came to life, and the focus shifts from mostly politics to individual character stories.

Briony feels very down to earth. While disinclined to following rules, she works diligently to help others and learn new skills, and she is brazenly unafraid of the opinions of others. She is an honest narrator, quick to recognize both fear and courage.

While uncovering mysteries about her home and Asperfell, Briony collects stories of her fellow prisoners, and I'm looking forward to seeing her band of friends work together in the next book. 

**Received eARC from Netgalley**
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Immediately from the start, Asperfell drew me in with its very distinct character voice. The main heroine, Briony draws you in with her fierceness and her almost comical love of gore and horror. The story begins with Briony as a young child and it reminded me of Lyra's voice in His Dark Materials with how deftly the author Jamie Thomas inhabits the voice, personality, and gumption of a young girl. While the "girl who doesn't like 'girlish jobs' can be a little overdone, Briony still brings a new edge to this. The plot is slow at first but in a way that builds tension rather than drags. The world Briony lives in features magic wielders and laypeople alike but after the King is murdered by his magician son, her world turns. You see echoes of events in our own history of the way that society can turn on its own, creating registries and incarcerating magicians as the new young king seeks to control is own fears. Briony is adjacent to these changes, watching from the eyes of a child and then a young woman in her twenties, as her father advises the new king. She is suddenly thrust into the middle when the new King discovers she has magic, something she herself had no knowledge of and she escapes to Asperfell, the kingdom where the banished murderer king and all the criminals of years past reign. 

In some ways, there is a disconnect between how quickly the series moves in the second half.  This would be my main critique is that after all of the layers and slow build of the first half, the second half flies by without as much nuance. 

However, without giving much away, the twist at the end is delicious. It reminds me of a conversation by a favorite author who talks about how twist endings shouldn't be a surprise because the author should have been dropping hints and laying the foundation for that reveal so that you relish that you knew all along. This is how Thomas writes. As I wondered about the loyalty of one of the characters I actually doubted myself, wondering if I was reading too much into it and for a while, I was disappointed that Thomas had created so many "good" characters. This made it that much more enjoyable when she revealed the twist. 

Briony is fashioned after all of the best strong heroines that fantasy knows. She is unyielding in her pursuit of truth and in her desire to rescue her damaged kingdom. While this can at times become one-note and predictable, Thomas creates enough new twists and turns that I am curious to see how Briony might develop in future books. 

The best compliment that I can give this book is that when I finished, I was devastated when I remembered it was an ARC and that I would have even longer to wait before its sequel comes out.
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My opinion of this one is so conflicted.  I loved everything about this story.  The world building. The spunky, independent girl (later, woman). Even the flaws.  

And the the ending happened. WTF Jamie?!

I understand this is Book 1 of a series, but that ending was more unsatisfying than zero carb bread. 

There may be spoilers beyond this point.
The first 25% of this book takes us on the brief journey through the life of young Briony Tenebrae. First we see the world through her 8 year old eyes.  Her father takes her to an sentencing of the late king's magical son.  The punishment is forever exile in a mysterious realm home to the Mage prison, Asperfell.  

At 10, Briony suffers a mysterious illness.  Soon after her father sends her far north to her ancestral home.  Briony spends 10 years there, away from court, away from her parents and sister.  Here she practices the fine art of collecting information, taught well by her father's spy, Cyprias. Three weeks after his last visit, a messenger tells Briony her father has been betrayed and she must disappear.  

SURPRISE!Spoilers!
Briony is a MAGE! WHHHHAAAAATTTT? Cyprias and Master Aeneas (another of dad's friends) open the gate to Asperfell with one objection: get the prince and return. 


Ok, so 20 year old Briony, virgin, roughly educated, not magically trained in the slightest, is sent to a magical prison for Mages.  What happens is basic.  She learns magic, tends the garden, and is stubborn AF. Then she unlocks the mystery of Asperfell with the hopeful reward being a gate back home.  

At 50%, Briony is an Orare.  A speaker if you will.  She speaks to magic.  She finds her voice and she uses it.  Prince Elyan is misunderstood and the perfect specimen of man-meat.  Master Tiberius runs Asperfell and is a pretty cool dude. Phyra is a necromancer that won't use her magic. We have snobby old people, crazy maniacs, the arrogant brute that everyone likes in the end, and of course the mad king. 

This story is fast pace with vast vocabulary without being difficult to read. Some dialogue doesn't flow well and there are several spelling errors/typos.  This story feels familiar.  It is filled with tropes, like all of them, but just a dash of romance.  

This YA story sets up the issues Briony will (at least I hope) attack further in the series. 
-the "woman's" place
-modesty/prudish ideals of female behavior


Does not have any LGBT+ characters or mentions (neither pro or con).
3 stars for being entertaining
1 star for having me hooked 
-.5 star for that stupid ending
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Where to start? Did I like this book? Yes. Am I annoyed that it's the first in a series and I can't get the second one yet? Oh, yes. 

Well written, with flawed and sympathetic characters, where the main character is allowed  to make mistakes, misjudgements, and simply be wrong. She is also allowed to be right, to be couragous, innocent, and to grow. And so are the other charcters. Not a single one is perfect. Simply put, I believed I would like this book, and I stayed up until one in the morning to read it, and was a bit useless at work the following day. But it was worth it.
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Great story about ayoung woman who discovers she is magic and because of this is send to another world. There she tries to survive, learn about her magic and searches a way home.
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Asperfell was a wonderfully designed novel. Magic and murder all tangled up together had me turning the pages faster and faster. Our story opens up on the eve of a King's murder and the sentencing of his first born son, a mage no less, as the murderer. He is sentences to Asperfell, a prison for mages who have committed heinous crimes. Once they are sent through the Gates they can never return. Paranoid with the fear of those with any magic at all, the prince's brother, now king, creates a registry and so begins a magical purge. 

Jamie Thomas crafted a world, and a main character that was believable and lovable. Finding ourselves mirrored in Briony Tenebrae. She is a wild creature, not meant for the preening masses that assemble at court, and we cheer her on in her quest from the moment she embarks upon it. 

While I at first thought the novel began a bit slowly after the revelation of murder, I understand the necessity to create the tension and portray the deterioration of the world as we are originally introduced to it. We follow Briony through many twists and turns, and while some twists were entirely predictable, the craftsmanship and world building made those anticipated turns less shocking than I would normally find them to be. 

This novel is a great addition to the New Adult category, and I highly recommend the read to anyone who has their imaginations deep in the magical recesses of murderers, thieves, and the wrongly accused.
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It is quite something that I could make time to read between Christmas and today (which is my birthday, so a lot of planning and all going on), while settling in on a new job. Asperfell was totally worth doing so! The worldbuilding is so good, and so intense, I could not help but love both Tiralean and Asperfell itself, however grim both were and became. The same goes for the characters. Not one of them is perfect, but they all have something to them that made me like them in some way, and made me really root for the good guys, and feel the pang of betrayal of the bad ones. Then the plot, it never felt slow, but also never hurried, and it kept me at the edge of my seat. I loved it, and I already look forward to part 2 so much!
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This is a story about a fantasy kingdom descending into anti-magic totalitarianism, from the perspective of a girl, later woman, who discovers a family secret and takes on a family tradition and a quest to try to right the wrongs of her world. It's the first of a planned trilogy, since I'm cursed to unintentionally begin trilogies long before final book publication is in sight.

It took me a moment to get past the initial sentences, which weren't in natural language at all, and were a bit awkward even for the intention of evoking a medieval fantasy setting, but I did read on and I did enjoy the story. Even though clues about and resolutions to various mysteries were highly telegraphed from chapters away, and—just in case you weren't already taking notes—the author was always sure to include a reminder of any relevant long-ago references a few pages before each resolution, I did enjoy the mysteries. It helped that each mystery and its resolution involved a lot of dense, world-building lore (catnip to my kind of fantasy fan).
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I was enthralled by this book almost from the first page.  It is a YA fiction but I think many adults would thoroughly enjoy this too . 

Yes there is familiarity here and some tropes are clear but still the strength of the plot and dialogue is such that it keeps you turning pages

There is magic, romance and wit at work here and it gallops along at a fair old whip  once the exposition at the start is completed. 

I will happily seek out the next book in this series as I just have to know what happens next!!!!

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC this is my honest review !
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ARC from NetGalley

3.5

The first 75% of this book was an easy 4 stars from me. The ending I take issue with. There wasn't sufficient foreshadowing, and the villain is a surprise only because of this. You are thrust into the breadcrumbs that lead us to book #2, unfortunately the price being the ending of book #1.

Looking back, I can see that certain little quests the characters went on were only to set the stage for a point of convenience later on. It cheapens it. It feels like an afterthought. One of the fights towards the end was just like *fight fight fight* "oh wait magic! I forgot I had magic!" And it just made me mad. I feel cheated out of the ending this book could have had.

Okay. I am done complaining. The majority of this book I quite liked. It was a page-turner. Great if you like YA fantasy. Hits a lot of the tropes, hits them well. A few things feel like they've already been done, but that's because they have. In like every YA fantasy to come before it. NBD. It's got neat magic and great imagery. The MC is likeable. The love interested is shipable. *shrug*
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***I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Uproar Books!***

I wanted to like this book. I really really wanted to like this book. It is exactly the type of book that I normally enjoy. A young, spunky female lead character. Magic. Society that seems to be based on a Victorian standard. Mysteries. Prisons. Other planes of existence. But I just couldn’t like it.

The writing is very good and thus why I gave this a two star rating over a one star. The dialogue is engaging, the plot moves at a fairly good pace, and the narrative flows beautifully. The first half of the book seemed a bit on the slow side while the second half was very rushed but that is my only complaint about the writing.

WARNING: From this point on there will be lots of spoilers, consider yourself warned.

This book has never met a young adult trope that it didn’t like….and utilize…..frequently. Let me preface where my opinion is coming from on this novel. The very first sentence, before I even hit the first chapter is that the author wants to “smash the patriarchy one novel at a time!”. Now, I will also explain that I am rather tired of reading militantly feminist literature, it seems to be everywhere these days. Normally I can overlook an author’s personal views or opinions about the book and just take the book for the story it presents. But not when that’s what you open with. The very first thing you told me about your story is that it’s smashing patriarchy with its strong female characters so you need to live up to that. You have now infused that idea into your novel and need to deliver.

This did not deliver. Instead I got the same old tired tropes of the young adult genre that feminist readers complain about constantly. How exactly are you smashing patriarchy? By presenting me tropes that I’ve been reading since I was 13 years old?

Briony is just like every young adult female lead character. She is spunky, sassy, strong willed, and bucks the patriarchal system that she was born into. Her older sister is the perfect lady of the court. This isn’t a new dynamic and it can be a good one when used correctly. I didn’t actually mind this because it set up Briony as a character who is questing to be knowledgeable. Knowledge and wisdom will be her weapon in the fight against what society has said her place is. That’s all well and good. My problems start when Briony gets to Asperfell.

Naturally she instantly dislikes Prince Elyan. He is dour, brooding, and wants nothing to do with her and largely he is exactly what one expects from the young adult male lead. I assumed Briony would be on a mission to find the answer to take him home whether he protested or not. But…..she doesn’t. Within the space of a chapter she seems to have completely forgotten about her mission and just goes along with working in the gardens and learning magic all while throwing a glare at Elyan when he deigns to make an appearance. He, of course, is primarily there to ridicule her efforts before disappearing again.

It wasn’t until about the last forty pages that Briony suddenly remembers that she is supposed to be getting Elyan back to their homeland. And only because someone whacked her across the head with the information that would lead her to that goal. She was far too busy trading gossip, learning magic, gardening, and making sarcastic remarks at Elyan to actually discover the answer on her own.

Another trope, instalove. Authors think that they are avoiding this if their characters start off hating each other. But Briony and Elyan go from coldly tolerating each other to gazing at each other affectionately literally in the space of a single dance. So not quite instalove but maybe 3 1/2 minute love? Microwave love? Be sure to wait for the ding!

Briony was also revealed to not be that strong or much of a feminist either. The most offensive example of this is when another character attempts to sexually assault her. Okay, we kind of have to assume that’s what he’s doing because it doesn’t get very far but I’m fairly confident that’s where this was headed. Briony courageously defends herself. She fights off her attacker and escapes to safety before the situation escalates into anything much worse. I was cheering for her! I was so proud of her for reacting in her own defense so decisively and swiftly. But then she decides to have a whole inner monologue about how she feels shame about the situation. Why exactly? Surely you would be feeling scared but also proud of yourself? She even says to herself that she has nothing to feel ashamed about…..but then concludes that thought with “but I do” and moves on. Is this really an example of a strong woman? Feeling shame about something that you recognize should not be causing you shame and during which you admirably protected yourself? I was highly disappointed.

Next we have the other young adult trope that I despise so much. Briony does something very stupid and reckless. She recognizes internally that it was reckless and stupid. But when Elyan points out that it was reckless and stupid then she yells at him about it. Because, how dare he think that he can control her! He doesn’t own her! She can do what she likes without him! Does anyone actually think that this is the makings of a strong woman? Actual thoughts that she had. No one was trying to control her or prevent her from doing anything on her own. She made a reckless and foolish decision, but because a male confronts her about it then he’s controlling. Then later he, naturally, apologizes for daring to question her reckless, foolish behavior because he was just so scared of losing her. And she gets to walk away feeling smug. Strong women rejoice! Patriarchy smashed!

Finally, the ending. We spent a very long time getting to Asperfell. We spent an equally long time gardening and learning magic in Asperfell. That left about 60 pages for the conclusion. I thought the conclusion was supposed to be the rescue of Elyan from Asperfell and delivering him back home. Except that didn’t happen. The book ends with them in the woods. On their way to a potential way to get home, but they aren’t actually sure it will work yet. And of course, it ends with a kiss. Frankly, it left me wondering what exactly the point was? We couldn’t spare another 30 pages to actually get back to Tiralaen? And then end it once they have successfully left Asperfell? I recognize that we’re setting up a sequel here, but the sequel works just as well starting with the moments after they escape Asperfell as the moments before.

Overall, this story reminded me of every single bad young adult novel I’ve ever read. Exactly the same characters. Exactly the same plot devices. Exactly the same tropes.
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This is being categorized as new adult rather than young adult, but it felt much more young adult to me, especially since a great deal of the story involves the coming of age of the heroine and has a first person narrative, plus angsty romance combined (the whole I hate you then love you trope). The prose is billed as being classic, but it wasn't mature, complex or historically classic enough to present a problem for teens to read it. Once the story shifts to the prison world of Asperfell, the story gets good and gothic with the mysterious and threatening atmosphere of the castle, dungeons, and many characters. For such a gothic feel, I was hoping for a bit more suspense or action, maybe a little horror too? Instead, this is a very reserved and clean read, also lending to a more conservative (think Victorian proper) YA feel. Some readers have likened it to a Jane Austen romance meets medieval fantasy, but the characters are not remotely witty, clever, or humorous enough.

The magic or super-abilities seem pretty standard at first; it reminds me of a hierarchical system that's similar to what's in the "Darkest Minds" YA series with more levels/abilities and takes place in a medieval fantasy world rather than a dystopian world. However, the heroine has a unique ability that will be very exciting once she fully develops it. Enjoyable but the conservative vibe reduces the romantic tension and gothic moodiness that could have made this series opener outstanding. I think the author may have been trying to combine genre styles (classic gothic romance, YA romance, and epic fantasy), and it went a little awry. Still an enjoyable read and a promising series start. Hopefully, the future installments will have a bit more edge to them.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Asperfell was very enjoyable. It read like an original fairy tale. The characters were great and had depth. For once, I didn't feel like too much plot was crammed into one book. I can't wait to see if there is going to be a sequel, because the series is just getting started.
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Asperfell was definitely one of my favorite reads of the year! This book was absolutely flawless and I found myself putting it down periodically only because I didn't want it to end. In fact, I'm considering reading it again in the next few weeks. I loved the way this book combined your typical fantasy with a Gothic atmosphere reminiscent of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, or, strangely enough, a Jane Austen novel. However, Asperfell somehow accomplished this while also being different from any book I've ever read,
Asperfell manages to combine these aspects without being derivative whatsoever. The world-building was excellently done; I actually enjoyed the info-dump in the first 20% or so of the book, and would have gladly read an entire book's worth of Briony's childhood before the real action begins. The writing itself was absolutely exquisite and, as I've seen other reviewers mention, flowed perfectly, even during the slower beginning of the book.
And of course, the characters were all so wonderful, even the side characters like Briony's sister Livia, as well as minor characters in Asperfell. Briony herself was the perfect heroine; I liked her immediately from the first chapter. As time went on, she only grew on me more, and it's safe to say she's one of my all-time favorite heroines.  Elyan was the most amazing love interest, and I loved seeing Briony slowly fall in love with him. I also liked how Briony clearly annoyed him from the beginning, but as time went on it was easy to see how much he began to care for her. However, I liked Elyan as a character on his own, and I would really like chapters from his point of view in the sequel (which I can't wait for).
I have nothing but praise for Asperfell, it's definitely going on the list of my all-time favorite reads, and I would recommend it to any reader, not just lovers of fantasy.
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Thank you to Netgalley for this advanced reader's copy. Well written book, loved the story and found the characters interesting and well developed. Looking forward to reading the next in the series
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Asperfell took a while to get going, but once it did, I was entranced. This book is written in the style of a Gothic novel (hence the comparisons to Jane Austen), and it was lovely to read - evocative yet restrained. It would have been easy to lean heavily on metaphor to explain the world of the magical prison that is Asperfell and all the strange goings-on that happen, but this book benefited from the author resisting that temptation.

I also loved the characters - Briony was such a perfect heroine from the first chapter; brave, curious, and somewhat impulsive. I also grew to love Elyan deeply, and admire how desperately he wants to do the right thing, no matter how difficult it is for him. 

My only complaint is that the first third of this novel does feel like a giant info-dump, as the author sets up Briony's backstory and introduces us to Tiralaen and then Asperfell, but it's worth pushing past that for the rest of the novel.

I'm already excited for the sequel and look forward to seeing more about what's been happening in Tiralaen while Briony has been gone.
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"As we passed under the archway and into the tunnel, blackness consumed us and Magefire bloomed in my hand. It did not chase the shadows away entirely, not even when my companions summoned their own flames, for Asperfell was made of shadows, and made shadows of us all."

-quote from Asperfell by Jamie Thomas 

Publisher's description:

"Only the darkest and most dangerous of Mages are sentenced to pass through the gate to Asperfell.

Not one has ever returned.

Never did Briony dream she might set foot in the otherworldly prison of Asperfell. She was, after all, neither Mage nor criminal. She was simply her father’s little whirlwind—fingers smudged with ink, dresses caked with mud—forever lost in a book or the spirit-haunted woods surrounding her family’s country estate.

But Briony always had a knack for showing up where she was least expected.

Only by braving the gate of Asperfell could Briony hope to find the true heir to the throne of Tiralaen and save her kingdom from civil war. And so, she plunges into a world of caged madmen and demented spirits, of dark magic and cryptic whispers... and of a bleak and broken prince with no interest in being rescued.

Hauntingly beautiful and lavishly told, Asperfell is a must-read for fans of Jane Austen who always wished she’d dabbled in blood magic."

This book began like a love song to Game of Thrones. In the first few chapters when Briony (our MC) was a child, she seemed very much like Arya Stark. Her sister Livia read like Sansa. Her father was an advisor to the king much like Ned Stark. There were multiple mentions of the Old Religion and the New. The new king was a vicious fool like Joffrey Baratheon. I didn't find myself minding all that much though. I love Game of Thrones and I loved this book. 

As Briony grew older and her world grew darker, she became less like Arya and more of her own woman. She found her own voice. The story and world building also moved away from the initial similarity to GoT. Her relationship with Elyan was a pleasure to read and it followed the enemies-to-lovers trope in a beautiful way. There's a few mentions of intimacy but the story remained a clean read. There's also many elements that are delightfully creepy. 

I truly enjoyed this novel and would re-read it which is a rare thing for me. It pulled me into this dark world and made me care for the characters I was reading about. Kudos to the author for a lovely read. In closing, one quote comes to mind from what I believe was George R.R. Martin's A Storm of Swords:

"High in the halls of the kings who are gone, Jenny would dance with her ghosts ..."

TRIGGER WARNING: there are a couple attempted assaults and mentions of assault. 

#asperfell #netgalley
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