Katie: In some ways, the first installment in Kristen Ashley’s Fantasyland Series is a bit of a departure for her. It’s got a strong fantasy theme designed to appeal to geek girls who like romance. There are witches, elves, talking animals, magic spells and instances of body swapping. In others, it’s one of her typical books. The heroine is ultra femme, but kick ass, while the hero is prone to some grunting and physically moving the heroine around where he wants her to be. That said, this is definitely one of her better attempts in spite of being 30% longer than it really needs to be.
Patty: Seoafin (“Finnie” to her friends, and thank God because my brain cannot even begin to know how to pronounce that) is an adventure-seeking, fearless, embrace-life kinda chick. Her parents died when she was young but not before imparting onto their daughter their sense of wanderlust and adventure – along with a healthy inheritance with which to fund the aforementioned traits. So Finnie travels, swims with sharks, bungee jumps and basically lives her life like some National Geographic Explorer host.
But, as orphans are wont to do, she misses her parents and wishes she could trade it all in for a chance to see them again. This leads Finnie to New Orleans and to a witch residing in the French Quarter named Valentine.
Katie: Valentine is described as classy and Creole, tall, thin, witchy and the possessor of an amazing shoe collection. Basically Eva Green.
*Katie originally inserted foot in mouth at this point but has removed it. Or at least attempted to. Shut. Up. Patty. It’s hard to get past a lifetime of ingrained cultural norms.
**Patty noticed this and laughed her ass off.
Patty: Valentine tells Finnie that there is an alternate universe/dimension/whatever where every human has an identical twin. It’s not an exact replica of earth nor do its doppelgänger people share identical character and personality traits with their earth twins; the former coming in handy when one needs to whistle past a plot contrivance, the latter a way to introduce the misunderstanding trope sans Jack Tripper. Basically, people look the same and some stuff is kinda the same but different so no need for Finnie to wear colored contact lenses or learn to speak Dothraki.
Katie: Being Kristen Ashley, she couldn’t just spell it Siobahn. She had to get creative with name spellings. I guess it’s permissible since I’d never get to Sha-von from any of those spellings. The male protagonist’s name is Frey Drakkar. SRSLY. Couldn’t even come up with an original last name. She had to go with a men’s cologne.
Patty: Oh! Siobhan? That one I know how to say. How the hell do you get “Finnie” from Siobahn?!
Patty: I really liked the heroine. She is rational, stands up for herself and does not do demure. She calls bullshit when she sees it and when the shit hits the fan, she powers through. A departure for KA since this is, I think, the first female lead that doesn’t need to be rescued from anything. She was more interesting than the guy (who is the result of some some pretty compelling genetics. Spoiler: see the review’s title) so much so that I couldn’t recall his name until Katie mentioned it. Polo? Paco Rabin? Designer Impostor? I mean, he was king or whatever but …
Patty: Granted, this is more of a pet peeve of mine than an actual sin but every heroine in every KA book uses the endearment “honey”. Usually before they even know the hero’s middle name. It’s the Gateway Endearment, signaling true lurve. And not like, “Honey, pass the salt”, not in an offhand way; more like the heroine just witnessed a heretofore unrealized vulnerability or was the recipient of some massive overture and she cannot even contain it. It’s a one-word phrase that encompasses defeat in the face of deep feeling. Realły? “Honey”? THE MAN JUST POURED HIS TORTURED SOUL ALL OVER THE CASTLE FLAGSTONES. YOU JUST LEARNED THAT HE GREW UP IN A SEWER. HE KILLED HIS CHILDHOOD PET SO THAT YOU COULD HAVE ITS KIDNEY. “OH, HONEY”. REALLY?
And LORD… the endless, detailed descriptions of outfits and rooms and furniture and hairstyles.
Katie: Patty is wrong. Wrong. Just wrong. This is just a typical KA in different clothing. He still grabs her by the neck. He still carries her places (albeit horse and palace rather than motorcycle). He still makes major life decisions for both of them without communicating. He decides she’s having a temper tantrum and responds in the worst way, then gives her the silent treatment rather than trying to communicate. Basically he withholds friendship and sex until she admits she was wrong and he was right. The difference is the fantasy theme. It distracts you some from the awful.
Patty: SHE was better. SHE was actually pretty awesome. Fuck the guy, he is a gingerbread stand-in for what passes as an Alpha Stud. Finnie had personality and charisma. Despite the whole dead parents thing, she wasn’t a wounded bird seeking a dick band-aid. And yes, he was TOTALLY overbearing and autocratic, but – and humor me here while we whistle past the graveyard – in Imaginationland, he literally was king. Technically (and this is where Katie screams) his behavior was not only accepted, it was expected.
Katie: But he wasn’t an actual king. He was the father of a probable future king, but Finnie’s father was the king. I mean, he was badass with control of elves and dragons, but not a king. According to Finnie’s mom and handmaidens, women are just expected to do all the work to attract and keep men, while allowing them to make all major life decisions. Uh, no.
While not the worst I’ve ever read, Finnie was like most other KA heroines: obsessed with shopping, good in bed, in the kitchen, and with kids, and pulled into crazy circumstances beyond her control by family. Or sort of family anyway. And you can’t forget about the dead parents. They’re the basis for her whole quest.
Y’all. In this fantasy world, the men make all the decisions regarding birth control and having babies. Finnie doesn’t know this and takes steps to keep from getting pregnant. Frey finds out and swaps out her bc without telling her because he’s ready to have kids. She has legit reasons for wanting to make sure this doesn’t happen, except Frey has taken it upon himself to make major life decisions for her. SHE DOESN’T KNOW SHE CAN’T GO BACK HOME, so every decision she makes is based on the assumption she’ll be leaving soon. Since he hasn’t communicated with her at all in any meaningful way, she doesn’t know she’s stuck.
Katie: Patty, I love you. Please put the crack pipe down.
Patty: Maybe it’s time. For what it’s worth, I’m comparing this one to the other KA efforts and stand by my pipe: it’s better. Plus, I LOVE getting you all riled up :)