Reid has spent her whole life pretending to be a man so she can inherit her father’s estate, but when a chance encounter threatens to expose her lie, she is forced to risk everything.
In the kingdom of Marsden, women are subservient to men and land can only pass from father to son. So when Reid Ellington is born, the fifth daughter to one of the wealthiest landholders in the kingdom, it’s announced that Reid is a boy.
Eighteen years later, Reid struggles to conceal the fact she’s actually a young woman. Every day, her secret becomes harder to keep. When one of Marsden’s princes sees her sparring with a sword, she is forced to accept his offer and lead her father’s soldiers to the border. Along the way, she discovers a covert organization within the army known as the Knights of the Realm. If Reid wants to save her family from being arrested for treason and robbed of their inheritance, she will have to join the Knights and become a weapon for the crown.
To protect her family, Reid must fight like a man. To do that, she’ll need the courage of a woman.
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Realm of Knights is the first entry in the Knights of the Realm series, and my first foray into the works of Jennifer Anne Davis. The cover and blurb are what originally caught my attention, and I went into this book with high expectations for a solid YA tale of female empowerment and one wild adventure. This is a story of equality, and fighting for what you believe in, regardless of how futile it may seem. It’s of doing what’s right for the safety and betterment of your friends and family, and of true acceptance. This book has tons of potential, but unfortunately falls short on execution.
The story is led by a cast of generally archetypal characters that have the building blocks to become exceptional. Reid, fifth daughter of the Duke of Ellington, is secretly raised as a boy in order to allow her family to retain their lands and titles. Necessary in a kingdom with backward ideals regarding gender equality, Reid isn’t made completely aware of what it’s truly like for a woman in the Kingdom of Marsden. Regrettably, a character that should have been a strong female lead ended up becoming a naive, and oftentimes whiny, child. Princes Gordon and Ackley, warrior and rogue, respectively, first appear to be carefully crafted, notable characters with more to them than meets the eye. Again, they fall into the same category as our lead, and their established qualities begin to degrade at a rapid pace. They do have their shining moments, but for me, it wasn’t enough. While the characters seem to fall flat, the one saving grace is it becomes increasingly difficult to discern true intentions, having you constantly guessing who is friend and who is foe.
One of the biggest issue I had with this book is how everything felt rushed. It’s a fast-paced book, spanning months in little over 250 pages, and while I appreciate not having to travel every step of the way alongside Reid as she ventures across the kingdom and beyond, this is really detrimental to many worldbuilding aspects. Reid arrives in the City of Buckley, uncovers and thwarts an assassination attempt, dives deep into the intrigue throughout the land, and is promptly sent into enemy territory on a super secret mission in what feels like the span of only a few days. Everything is rather anticlimactic, and I was often questioning the unrealistic decisions that had been made. While we travel by foot and horseback throughout the counties, environments are not vividly constructed around us, leaving too much to the imagination. I felt as though I was swimming in a shallow pool, wishing I’d eventually reach the deep end, only to never arrive.
As I mentioned, I expected this story to be one of empowerment, and I was sadly met with repetitious and exaggerated instances of extreme sexism and no resolve. In the Kingdom of Marsden, all women are weak and need to know their place, and all men, with the exception of maybe one or two characters, are pigheaded and condescending fools. With echoed “you belong to me” and “being a woman”, and all the variants in between, it became not only tiresome, but actually quite offensive. Reid’s constant astonishment of the lay of the land seems completely unrealistic, as she’s an adult that has resided with and witnessed the lives and struggles of her four older sisters. It’s one thing to use inequality to set the stage, but it’s not something to be used in almost every occurrence of character interaction.
Realm of Knights, while flawed, is built around an incredibly interesting plot of political intrigue and conspiracy. Each new facet introduced continues to weave a web that snags readers and holds fast. Its twists and turns keep you on your toes and champing at the bit to finally uncover the truth. Additionally, an enigmatic brotherhood with a plethora of shadowed secrets adds another layer to the the tale’s underlying machinations, definitely piquing my interest. The final pages leave readers at an unexpected cliffhanger, and although I wasn’t necessarily a fan of this book in its entirety, I admit I need to know what happens next.
Realm of Knights is available via Reign Publishing on September 10, 2019.
Note: I received this book from Xpresso Book Tours via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.