Cover Image: The Councillor

The Councillor

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Member Reviews

I received a digital copy of this book from Netgalley for an honest review.

My favorite book of 2021...where is book two???  The Councillor has everything I want in a book and more.  The characters are fantastic, the writing is beautiful, lots of political intrigue, murder, and don't forget all the sexiness.  I want more asap!
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The book doesn't make it easy to slide in, with a style dense in a way that feels more like literary historical fiction than the average fantasy (with its very realist, accessible prose and structure). But that style is used with great deftness to really steep the story in its setting and characters, with intricate details (that matter, so much, both in the observing and the understanding) and a certain measure and weight to actions and consequences.
Full review to come on my YouTube channel.
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The Councillor is a really interesting political fantasy mystery. I really enjoyed it. The beginning was started off slow but I really loved getting to know the world and the history. It was fascinating how fleshed out the world and characters were. I found it really compelling once I got through the first little bit. 

The mystery was definitely intriguing and all the moving parts were so interesting and confusing in the best way possible. I loved the dynamic in the main characters personalities and how they all worked together as things advanced. It was really a fascinating premise. To have an orphan scholar have so much power in their hands and have to make such huge decisions for the fate of the country. 

If you want a slow build, political fantasy with casually queer characters this is the story for you. I would highly recommend it.
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This is not the normal type of fantasy that I pick up, but it was quite good!  This is quite heavy on the politics and intrigue, which I feel like can bog down a story if not written well, but this one doesn't suffer from that problem. The world building and and characters are engaging, so it's worth a try even if you usually don't pick up the more political/court intrigue focused fantasies!
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Review to come.  Thanks to Stephanie Felty and Daw books for the ARC in exchange for my honest review. 

Publication Date March 2, 2021
#TheCouncillor #NetGalley
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC.

This marvelous book deserves the chimera on the cover because it is a rare beast indeed: a political fantasy with that's also a page-turner with a lot of heart AND a queernorm world. 

When the Iron Queen Sarelin Brey is murdered,  her royal scholar and friend Lysande is shocked to find out that she has been selected by Brey to choose the next monarch from the city-rulers who now circle like vultures. Lysande's role is further complicated by myriad factors: her humble origins, her desire to seek Brey's murderer, her growing drug addiction, and the dangerous elemental White Queen.

If you like your fantasy heavy on cutting conversations, internal monologues, and critiques of existing power structures, this book is for you. I LOVED it. The author's background in analyzing Machiavellian politics in Shakespearean drama and fantasy literature definitely shines through. It's a fully fleshed and flawed world.

Lysande, the main character, stands out amongst other fantasy heroines. She has a drug addiction she hides from others. She makes mistakes. She desires other people and is shown as bisexual, but it's unremarkable in this world where same-sex couples aren't a big deal. 

It's hard to believe this is a first novel and hard to come up with flaws. I guessed some of the twists in advance but not all of them, and that was great. I occasionally couldn't figure out why characters were journeying from one place to another, but that's a frequent problem in fantasy for me. 

I'm truly looking forward to the next volume!
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Lysande is a scholar, and an orphan. Adopted by the Queen of Elira, Sarelin Brey, she's risen to a position of trust and even friendship. But now her idol lies near death. Eliran custom dictates that a new leader will be chosen from the rulers of the five, disparate lands it contains, and the selection decision falls upon a chosen Councillor. That Lysande is a commoner should rule her out, and yet she is thrust into the role of publicly choosing from her 'superiors' who should have ultimate rule - and privately, trying to deduce which of them killed the former Queen.

The beginning of this novel put me a little in mind of the wonderful Goblin Emperor, probably because of the slow pace, the focus on the analytical rather than action. It caught me a little by surprise, then, when things blossom into quite a different story, without losing that element of analytical thought and focus on the characters. Definitely worth sticking with if, like me, you struggle a little with the slow beginning.

I think part of that is the use of frequent flashback thoughts - not full blown scenes, but Lysande's habit of thinking back to the time when... blah blah. It can make things feel a little disjointed, and you do need to pay a little attention. She's not the most likeable of characters all the time, either - or perhaps it was just the odd drug habit, which we're thrust into early on without getting a huge amount of explanation to make it even slightly sympathetic for quite some time. 

These are minor grumbles, though, as is a passing comment that this is a very 'full' book. There's commentary on rich v. poor, on judging people for abilities they have no control over developing, on power, and several other themes. It's a tad busy! There's also a large amount of gender politics, and it's wonderful! Fantasy (and sci-fi) all too often disappoint by sticking to how things are/were in the real world, and that sometimes feels like it's missing the point. Or, it can go the other way and be contrary in a very obvious fashion. The Councillor hits that perfect sweet spot of mixing things up and just doing it so matter of factly that it's amazing! The default seems to be female - and I cannot tell you how many times I got annoyed at myself for assuming e.g. the Captain would be male, argh! - and there are moments of 'the little husband' kind of thing, but men aren't subjugated or lesser, just less... well, yeah, default. Wonderful!

It just works, and lifted this from an already intriguing fantasy plot into something that felt that little bit more clever, and definitely different enough to stand out. Mainly that's down to some excellent writing. It took a while to get really in to the book, for me, but once it caught me there was no letting go. How this Machiavellian plot would twist and turn, revealing answers to several mysteries along the way - yup, that was definitely worth sticking around for!

There's going to be at least one more book in this series, and I am thoroughly looking forward to it.
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The Councillor is a smartly-crafted political debut imbued with elemental magic, monsters, chimera, intense tournament, and intrigues. The Councillor is a slow-burn novel, and although it indeed took me a bit longer to read than my usual reading pace, I think the prose was utterly worth savoring. If I’m not mistaken, this is a duology, and I’m curious to find out how the series will end, and don’t worry, there’s no cliffhanger here.

One of the many strengths of this story is the prose. It is rich, but stripped back as well, in what I thought was a perfect style for the tone, in dripping bits of information slowly, whilst allowing the plot to progress. There is a lot to take in, but E.J. Beaton brilliantly avoids unnatural exposition, and expertly implements it into the story.

The Councillor has been advertised as a Machiavellian fantasy. And indeed it is! It is full of brilliant political intrigue and twists and turns throughout. But, whilst this is great, I would say that the shining light of this debut is the characterisation. It is some of the best that I have had the pleasure to read in fantasy. Each character is fleshed out, fully developed and acts in ways that complies perfectly with their motivations. It was wonderful to read.
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This book was okay and I do plan on still ordering it for my Library.  However, it had an extremely low pace and I found myself struggling to finish it.  The writing is okay and the plot was creative, however, it is not for me.
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I tried, multiple times, but I could not get through this book – the pacing was too slow and dense, and the characters didn't grip me enough to want to know more about them.
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this is very good (if convoluted) and very gay (fuck yes!). RTC after I gather my thoughts in order.
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“Any soldier can kill something she hates. It’s only when you kill something you’ve come to love that you learn how to lead”.

The Councillor by E.J. Beaton is a Machiavellian fantasy that follows Lysande Prior and her quest to choose the next ruler in Elira. When Queen Sarelin is assassinated, Lysande is appointed Councillor and is tasked with selecting the next Monarch. However, far away from home, the White Queen is stirring and possesses a danger to the realm and everything Lysande cares about.

My expectations for this book were high after hearing praise from Petrik Leo and The Brothers Gwynne. So did this book live up to my expectations? It absolutely did!

The Councillor is a book full of political intrigue and satisfying twists throughout the whole story. Beaton’s prose is beautiful, and she is able to set the tone perfectly. Beaton makes the reader feel so immersed in Lysande’s story that even the slow parts are enjoyable to read! The tension slowly builds up throughout the story, and the reader is rewarded by an epic and heartbreaking conclusion.

The best aspect of The Councillor are the characters. Each character feels distinct, complex and are well realised. Seeing Beaton’s character work gave me Joe Abercombie vibes since each character has it’s own unique tone and demeanour.

Before starting this book, it is important to be conscious that The Councillor is not a typical fantasy, with many battle scenes or complex magic systems. The Councillor is a Machiavellian fantasy that heavily focuses on political intrigue, tension and exhilarating dialogue. If you enjoy political fantasy, then you need to read The Councillor. 

The artwork for the cover needs to be praised as well. It is a beautiful cover that captures the tone of this story well. 

I adored this story, and Beaton has convinced me that I need to read more political focused fantasy books! I am looking forward to reading whatever E.J. Beaton writes next.

5 / 5 stars

Thanks to DAW Books and NetGalley for an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.
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E.J. Beaton’s The Councillor (2020) is a political fantasy whose smooth prose carries one smartly if slowly through the well-worn grooves of the genre. And therein once can see both the novel’s strengths and its weaknesses, which together result in a solid if somewhat overly long and overly familiar story.

Lysande Prior — commoner, orphan, and scholar — has risen to become advisor and friend to the warrior Queen Sarelin, who recently put down a nearly-successful attempt by the White Queen to restore elemental magic users (a currently persecuted minority group) to their former ruling position in Elira. When Sarelin is assassinated, though, Lysande finds herself named Councillor, and thus tasked with choosing Elira’s next ruler from amongst the rulers of its four major regions. A job made more complicated by their inherent sense of rivalry, the impending war with a newly-resurgent White Queen, and by the fact that Lysande suspects one of the four city leaders of working in concert with the White Queen.

Beaton’s prose, a clear positive here, is rich, precise, clear, and fluid throughout. Descriptive passages are vivid, internal monologues are thoughtfully meditative, and dialogue rings true, as well as doing a nice job of conveying underlying tension between characters. 

Characterization is a bit more mixed. Lysande is a complex character for a variety of reasons. Her love for Queen Sarelin, for instance, is tempered by her moral issues with Sarelin’s brutal treatment of the Elementals. Her concern for stability in the realm is at odds with her desire for change:  change in the persecution of the Elementals, change in the structural issues of class and inequality, change in the administration of rule and law. Her personal life is also complicated by various relationships (past, present, potential ones) and by her addiction to a drug made of chimera scales (a rare drug given that chimera are extinct). While her portrayal is multi-layered, it also felt not fully tapped, as if it skated a bit along the surface rather than delving deep enough. Her anger at the status of the Elementals or poor, for instance, felt a bit easy, coming as it often did when she is faced to face with them in ways constructed to evoke the greatest amount of pity—a group of people so starved their bones are prominent, a group of Elemental prisoners locked in a cage awaiting execution, etc. I would have liked a greater sense of where her sense of injustice came from. 

As for the relationship questions, honestly, I think I’ve cumulatively just gotten tired recently of novels spending so much text on characters fixated on another character’s hair or lips or throat, etc., often at times that seem implausible to me. It’s also hard for me to get invested in a character’s alleged intensity when that same level gets shared amongst more than one recipient. But while I was annoyed by this throughout the novel, it’s possible Beaton is just the victim of all the other novels I’ve read recently that have annoyed me in the same fashion. In other words, your mileage may vary.

Beyond Lysande, the characterization is somewhat weaker. The other rulers never seemed fully three-dimensional. Two especially felt pretty thin, an even greater issue given that their relationship, which I was told but never felt, is a major plot point. Another of the rulers is more interesting, but in that sly, secret, good-guy-or-bad-guy way that one’s see so often. He isn’t a bad character, just a pretty stock one.

That sense of having seen things before is also an issue with the plotting. It feels like several plot points are teased out as if they were meant to be either ambiguous or a complete mystery (such as the traitor), but some of the teasing went on way too long as I thought the reader was pretty clear on the things being “hinted” at, while two of the plot turns that I think (and to be fair I could be wrong on this — if so, apologies to the author) are meant to be surprises are I’d say pretty easily predictable and worse, from an early stage of the novel. 

Pacing is slow, exacerbated by those too-long teases and too-frequent reveries on a bit of flashed skin, and at times I’m not sure why we’re journeying places or why we’re waiting on certain events. The novel is much more focused on politics and character, which I enjoyed, and as noted in the intro, it’s a smart focus. I always enjoy novels that have lots of intelligent people and this is certainly one of those. Beaton presents us with only a handful of real action scenes, but unfortunately one felt more than a little perfunctory, while a big climactic battle scene had some issues with logistics and plausibility. And world-building in general felt a little thin; I certainly had a sense of the society and the land’s basic history, but similar to Lysande’s characterization, it felt a bit too surface-level, with it not quite clear to me how some of it actually worked, particularly in relation to the Elementals. There were just a few too many nagging questions I had, small ones granted — this is not a book that employs idiot plots — but still enough to detract from my enjoyment. 

The Councillor resolves several major issues while the major narrative arc remains. Thanks to Beaton’s prose, the focus on politics and social issues, and a reliance on smart characters doing and thinking intelligently, I’ll pick up the sequel. But I’ll also be hoping the author breaks away from the familiar genre plots and characters and moves a bit more fully into something that feels a bit more freshly original.
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The Councillor by E.J. Beaton, felt like this book was not for me. I struggled to get into it sufficiently to really enjoy it. Very Descriptive and and while description is necessary  I feel too much detracts. I do think others will enjoy the book and thank you for giving me a chance with it.
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This is a good start to (maybe) a series. Going into this, I was worried that it would be dark and gritty so that all of the characters are horrible. Instead, I loved all the characters.

The one thing that I had a problem with was that the pacing seemed too slow even though things were happening.
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The Councillor is a brilliant Machiavellian fantasy featuring a bisexual scholar, chimaeras, and a desire for power in many different forms. Although slow-paced and moderately difficult to get into, I had a wonderful time reading this book. The characters, the plot, and the political intrigue were all superb; it's a brilliant debut, and I can't wait for more.

At the heart of it, The Councillor explores power. It investigates how power is upheld, wielded, and if it exists for the ruler, or the people. Lysande is not of royal blood, she's an orphan who gained the favour of the Queen due to her exceptional intelligence. She wasn't the expected choice to become The Councillor. Lysande wasn't necessarily reaching for power, but she enjoys what she has become. As someone acutely aware of how the upper classes function while also having a strong understanding of those who face poverty, she balances her desire to retain her power with wanting to help people.

The political intrigue in this book was delightful. The Queen has been assassinated, and the main characters continuously face threats on their life. This isn't a book that focuses heavily on combat, but instead the main characters attempt to outwit their opponents. The Councillor is a book where you can't trust anyone. Everyone has their secrets, their hidden desires, and their ambitions. Lysande is aware that the person who betrayed them is within their midst, but who? And why? The group face a threat from The White Queen, a woman with elemental magic who the oppressed magic users of the Kingdom have rallied around. Lysande believes the oppression of elementals is too harsh, and yet the prejudice against them runs deep. Navigating her way through complicated politics, how much will her new power protect her?

The characters were incredibly compelling. Lysande is an incredibly complex character; she struggles with drug addiction, and her new role isn't the easiest for her to adapt to. Watching her grow into her power, and the way she developed as a character was wonderful. All of the cast have incredibly distinct voices and are well-developed and nuanced. I loved the casual mlm background relationship. This is a queernorm world, and the conflict couples face isn't based on their sexuality.

One of my favourite aspects of the book was the relationship between Lysande and Luca Fontaine. I've never read a book that spent so long describing how sexy a man's neck is. Lysande loves to dominate her partners, and Luca is more than a little bit interested. I wouldn't necessarily describe them as love interests, but their relationship has slow-burn tension that I adore.

The Councillor was an intensely interesting book, a brilliant debut, and one I'd recommend to everyone who enjoys power and political intrigue in their fantasy. I can't wait to see what this author does next, and I'm so glad we're going to be getting more in this universe.
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Thanks to the publisher for providing an ARC in exchange of an honest review.

I wasn't expecting this adult fantasy to be so entertaining. With a beautiful prose, amazing plot twists, and complex characters, it captures your attention until the last page.

The story follows a female scholar in a Queernorm world that has to investigate who assassinated the queen and simultaneously chose the next ruler of the realm. The story is not filled with nonstop action, but rather, it's perfect for people that want more political intrigue in their stories. The author takes us through different settings and introduces different characters to set up this world that's just beginning to face a serious wake up call. The political structure is pretty easy to get into but filled with complexities and diversity, so you won't get bored. The magic system is something that gets slowly explored and promises to be even more amazing in the next book.

The writing style in this book is beautiful! I loved the author's prose. It sets up the setting so realistically and detailed that it feels like you've seen the place before. It manages to be descriptive and magical without becoming too tedious to read through and the way in which the human emotions and relationships are described are so good. I enjoyed reading about the different relationships that were presented in the book, it felt poetic and I could perfectly understand what they were trying to convey.

The main character is very interesting. We get her perspective throughout the entire book and we are witness to all her problems. She's an addict and an orphan that's trying to navigate through the most important people of the territory and this makes her feel inadequate at times. However, she's very intelligent and the author does not only mention this but proves it by putting the character to the test. I enjoyed reading about a character that's able to figure out a lot of things but also not be knowledgeable of everything around her.

The plot twists left me open-mouthed and the tension between some characters had me on the edge of my seat. Can't wait to read more by this author!
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I stumbled upon this one while browsing NetGalley selections. I love a good cunning protagonist, political scheming, and the bonus tag of Machiavellian-inspired meant I was basically bound to love this book. Unfortunately, I found myself struggling as I read and it's honestly hard to fully describe why. 

I'll start with the good, because there really is a lot to love in this book. The palace drama and politiking in this is fantastic. Our MC, Lysande, finds herself the newly announced Councillor after her Queen and close friend Sarelin is murdered. As Councillor, it's her job to appoint her country's next ruler. Yet, the Sarelin' assassin remains at large and putting the wrong person on the throne could put the entire country in jeopardy. Lysande's systematic, cautious (Machievellian) approach to handling these candidates is both fascinating and ruthless. There were multiple occasions as I read where I was thinking, 'damn Lysande you ballsy' with some of the decisions she makes. For fans of political dramas, this feature definitely hits its mark.

The character work in here, especially Lysande and Luca, are quite fun to read. Lysande gets portrayed as this very scholarly character, who's initially very doubtful of her abilities as Councillor given her low-born upbringing. Her growth through the book and truly coming into her power, and her own mental growth to be comfortable and *accept* that power, is extremely well crafted. Her growing chimera scale drug addiction, which apparently has similar effects to cocaine, is another facet of her character, though the author is careful to never make that her entire character. She also has this surprisingly domme hedonistic side of her that was simply a delight to read.

Of the four ruler candidates, my favorite by far is Luca (Sorry Jale and Dante). Guy brings his pet cobra to the introductory dinner table and makes no comments about it. Who could not be a fan? Luca in a way, is an older, wiser, and more cunning rendition of your "dark, mysterious, and probably evil YA love interest", yet his characterization is just so compelling to read. I also really loved that Luca, despite occasionally flirting with Lysande, doing her favors, is absolutely not her ally. He has his own goals and if that means going against Lysande's will, so be it. Such is the game of politics, right? 

Despite the political machinations, despite the character work, I think what really made *The Councillor* difficult to get through was the slow pacing. *The Councillor* is slow. *Really* slow. Lysande spends a lot of time introspecting, a lot of time being sad that Sarelin isn't there to guide her, a lot of time telling herself she's only going to temporarily take more dragon scale, etc. While I don't mind a character-driven novels, despite all of Lysande's musings, I never really found myself emotionally connecting to her. Likewise, it felt like there was a gap between her musings and the actions she decides to take, like there's a single critical step in a logic puzzle missing when going from state A to B.

Another minor complaint I have is that Beaton spends the majority of this book trying to push Lysande and her advisor Desert together, when Luca is *RIGHT THERE*. Stop trying to make Desert happen. he has the personality of the wet rag. I'm sorry but they really have no chemistry together, While Lysande and Luca have phenomenal chemistry *and* you get the added trope of enemies-to-lovers? Enemies-as-lovers? Not sure what you'd call it but it's some good, quality content and I have to suffer this dishrag instead. Add on Lysande and Luca's lowkey (except not really) dom/sub dynamic (I'm here for more female dommes in SFF) and like, what even is the point of your existence Derset?

Finally, a big portion of this book is about determining Sarelin's assassin, and which of these four rulers aided it. With every meeting, with every decision, this is a factor that weighs heavily on Lysande's mind. Around 30% in, we learn that there's a spy admits this party of rulers Lysande is traveling with and this intrigue carries throughout the book as Lysande scrutinizes every action. Personally, I thought the identity of that spy was extremely obvious and for me, it really detracted from the mystery when with every musing I just wanted to scream, "No it's ___!" 

Overall, I rate this book a 3/5. There was a ton of potential and the Machiavellian-inspired politiking really should have been right up my street. Unfortunately, with the slow pacing and lack of real intrigue, I found *The Councillor* somewhat lacking instead.
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My full review can be found on my blog (link below).

Soft-BDSM LGBT+ YA Court Intrigue (and not the “feminist Machiavellian political fantasy” it’s marketed as, at least for me)

I just thought I’d get it out of the way first.

Now that’s done I can start with the proper introductions 😉. The Councillor is E.J. Beaton’s debut novel, published today by DAW. It takes place in a fictional world bearing strong resemblance to our world’s Italy in Renaissance times and all this time and place entailed: separate city-states, feudalism, a ruling caste of cutthroat nobles, condottieri and the constant warring they made their fortunes in, and even something of an Italian League (not the football one, this one). The main character, Lysande Prior, is an orphan foundling who through sheer talent (she translated an ancient poetry artifact, Silver Songs, at the age of twelve) became a protégé of Elira’s Iron Queen, Sarelin. When the queen is murdered, our poor scholar must take the position of a Councillor – a sort of an interrex, responsible for choosing a new ruler from among the four remaining city-state rulers. The decision is urgent, for the person responsible for Sarelin’s murder is no other than Elira’s nemesis, The White Queen: Mea Tacitus (again that masculine suffix) who over two decades earlier set the realm aflame (quite literally, being an elemental able to control fire). The White Queen wants to conquer Elira for good this time, and won’t take “no” for an answer. So it falls to our hapless and seemingly mousy protagonist to make the right decisions under mounting pressure and successfully defend the realm. Lengthy discussions, banquets, balls, tournaments, and sightseeing trips abound, and there’s even one short battle.

The book is written in an assured, flowing style, imaginative and lush, bordering on purplish – all the more remarkable considering this is a debut novel for the poet Beaton. The exposition is done deftly, the intricacies of the world explained in small bits and pieces, allowing the plot to flow naturally. The cast of characters is sizeable but managed effectively by the author: while their characteristics are mostly limited to the bare minimum allowing the reader to recognize each without trouble and focused mainly on physical traits – with the exception of the dead queen and the main protagonist, who were given a bit more depth and much needed ambivalence – the characterization seemed adequate for the task of differentiating the various persons of interest. Beaton’s writing holds a promise, and her broad literary knowledge can be glimpsed in the myriad of references to various texts, from Machiavelli to Marks. The introduction of magic as a discriminatory trait in a feudal post-war society was an interesting decision and resulted in the lion’s share of my enjoyment of the book. I wish the novel lived up to the marketing description and actually focused on politics of the realm; however, after a promising start it shifted its attention toward romantic/sexual fantasies and relationships of the main character couched in the glittery cloth of court intrigues – and left me feeling increasingly disgruntled.

There are many reasons for that. But the first and foremost is that I found the marketing campaign for this book to be totally misleading. “Machiavellian” aspects of this novel can be summed up as a handful of references and the main protagonist “borrowing “Machiavelli’s remarks on ruling – that’s basically it. Politics is trivialized to an average YA-level simplified vision of court intrigues, where what you wear (oh, goodness, the descriptions of the clothing seemed to go on forever!) or eat, or who you have sex with is more important than the decisions about the realm. War’s brewing but the main character is more interested in imagining herself choking and/or slapping certain attractive males from her entourage as a prelude/part of her sex play. If I had a dollar for every mention of the pulse in the throat of an enemy-to-lover walking trope the main protagonist wanted to squeeze I’d be surprisingly rich.

[...]

The main character is an educational example of a special snowflake trope: an orphaned genius with a generous heart, scholar’s naivety and warrior’s loyalty and bravery, balanced  by one tiny teeny addiction which doesn’t seem to have any adverse effects on her and is shown as the requisite “weakness” – because there are no other weaknesses she could even pretend to have (except wide-eyed social and emotional stupidity – more on that later). On the contrary, you can rest assured that over the course of the novel her special snowflakiness will only grow. This evolution of Lysande as the Chosen One and her slow appreciation of power is marked by her approach to the white, “deathstruck” lock of her hair, which she studiously covers at the beginning of the book and openly shows at the end and which brands her as separate, other, destined.

Our warrior-poet is also a dominatrix, spending a substantial portion of her time fantasizing about her actions in various sexual arrangements while remaining rather hung up in terms of emotional development. Instances of slapping, choking, consensual introduction to bondage and fantasies about them explain my classification of Beaton’s novel as soft-BDSM; and while BDSM and YA don’t seem to go hand in hand, I categorize The Councillor as YA due to the pronounced emphasis on romantic relationships coupled with lack of noticeable emotional development of the main characters. The main protagonist is curiously dumb for a genius scholar: logic is not her forte, neither are human emotions or motivations, to which she remains utterly blind for the most part of the novel. Add to it the fact that this book devotes an incredible amount of time to descriptions of clothing, gossip, commentary on romantic involvement of others, and utilizes many of the worn romantic tropes: star-crossed lovers, enemies-to-lovers, emotional/sexual betrayal, unwanted wedding, misunderstood courtship, forbidden romance, etc., and The Councillor lands firmly in the YA category for me.

As for the court intrigue, it has sadly turned out utterly predictable for me, the twists signposted half a book earlier. The Councillor has also severe pacing issues: while the first three quarters of the novel were characterized by a marked slowness, lengthy descriptions and focus on internal states of the protagonist, the last quarter sped up quite drastically, making the final payoff rather unbelievable and rushed. I have a suspicion there’s a second installment in the making – and I won’t be reading it.

[...]

I have received a copy of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks.

Score: 3/10
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The Councillor is E.J. Beaton's debut novel that nobody should miss the opportunity to read! I am thankful to have received an ARC of this story from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Councillor is a Machiavellian fantasy that follows the quest of Lysande Prior. After the death of Queen Sarelin Brey, Lysande has to find not only a new monarch to rule the throne but also make sure she doesn't choose the queen's murderer. 

This novel is filled with so much fantasy, action, mystery, suspense, and intrigue that I loved every bit of it. The most important concept I look for is character development, and it was definitely there! I loved every aspect of Lysande, Luca, Jale, Dante, Cassia, and every other good or evil character involved in the story. The story started out a bit slow before the other monarchs came in, but once everyone came together so did the excitement. I also quite enjoyed the magical elements and political powers that came into play. It led to an even balance of friendships and untrustworthiness in my opinion. There were so many characters that Lysande really enjoyed the company of, but that nagging feeling that one of them might betray her always had me on my toes.

This standalone adult fantasy is a slow-burn plot line, but I felt that it was so easy to get trapped in this book and never want to look away. There are only fifteen long chapters throughout the novel, so the pacing might be a concern to those who don't prefer long chapters. However, I must say that I don't prefer long chapters either, but I loved the characters and plot line so much that it never once felt daunting. 

All in all, I give a huge hats off to the author on a well-told story! For this being a debut adult fantasy novel, I am so utterly pleased and excited for more to come from E.J. Beaton's writing!
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