Review: The Shattered Court

The Shattered Court

I picked up The Shattered Court by M J Scott at last year’s Romance Writers of Australia conference in August. I’ll confess, this was a case of judging a book by its cover. I loved it. There was something about blue-grey ocean, the cliff face and that exquisite gown that called to me. When I packed up my book case for the big move from Melbourne, The Shattered Court made it into the suitcase, not a box. It sat on my bedside table for months, I even carried it around in my handbag for awhile, but it wasn’t until I saw it on the shortlist for the Romance Writer’s of America RITA award that I finally resolved to get it read.

What stopped me from getting past the cover in the first few months of owning it? Partly my insanely busy life that left little room for reading, partly that I had never read a fantasy romance before. When I did have the energy to read, that energy went to something I knew I would enjoy—a reread of an old favourite or a book by a beloved author. To read a new author in a new genre? That was too big a risk when my reading time was so precious.

What a fool I was. I love romance. I love fantasy. How had I never read a paranormal romance? How had I not known this genre existed?

What I loved about The Shattered Court was having the fantasy storyline without the density so many fantasy books have (the last fantasy series I read was the Wheel of Time, so perhaps my judgement is still coloured). I raced through this book in a day, much like the romance novels I usually read. There was less world-building in it than a traditional fantasy, fewer secondary characters and fewer plot lines, much like the romance novels I usually read. There was a strong, capable heroine, a brooding alpha male and some very hot sex, much like the romance novels I usually read. Unlike the majority of romance novels I read, The Shattered Court had a strong element of political intrigue; more explosions, assassins and magic; and unlike the romances I read, it ended on a cliffhanger. This is not a stand alone novel, which I both like (I never want a good book to end) and dislike (the next is not yet published).

There are some aspects of this genre that are a problem for me. It was told entirely from the point of view of the hero and heroine, yet I found myself desperately wanting to hear from some of the other characters. In that aspect, I wished I was reading a traditional fantasy. And it was not long enough. To be fair, it was probably about 90,000 words, which is standard for a single title romance, but on the short side for a fantasy. I really enjoyed this book. I wanted to enjoy it for at least another day.

I like the relationship between the hero and heroine in this book. The conflict from the story is mainly provided by the political issues surrounding them, rather than hero and heroine themselves, which made for a surprisingly satisfying read. I found the hero particularly attractive—the strong, silent protector is a weakness of mine—although the heroine was a little bland, neither insipid nor exciting. I’m looking forward to seeing her come in to her own in the next book. The secondary characters weren’t fleshed out as much as I’d like, mainly due to the constraints of having restricted points of view, so they felt very much like sketches of archetypes rather than full blooded characters. But there’s a reason authors use archetypes. They work. They’re familiar. And in a genre where the focus must be on developing the two main characters, using archetypes a secondaries allows the reader to fill in information the author doesn’t have room to include. M J Scott relies on the reader complete the detail of the secondary character based on their knowledge of these well-read character types. It’ve very clever writing.  The world was easy to imagine, largely because of the author’s choice to reference elements of our world, such as the seasons. The description of the dresses left me lusting, and I immediately had to Google to see if green pears actually existed (which they do, and they are every bit as beautiful as the book describes)

I will definitely be picking up the next book in this series as soon as it’s out. M J Scott has done a lovely job with The Shattered Court, and I’m looking forward to seeing how she goes with her RWA nomination. It’s a very bid deal and I’m thrilled to see an Australian author kicking some butt. It’s exciting being introduced to a completely new genre. I have so much to catch up on. If you read paranormal romance and can recommend what to read next, leave a comment.

Until next week…

From the back cover:

Entangled in a court ruled by tradition and intrigue, a young witch must come to terms with newfound power and desire—and a choice between loyalty and survival.…

The royal witches of Anglion have bowed to tradition for centuries. If a woman of royal blood manifests powers, she is immediately bound by rites of marriage. She will serve her lord by practicing the tamer magics of the earth—ensuring good harvests and predicting the weather. Any magic more dangerous is forbidden.

Lady Sophia Kendall, thirty-second in line to the throne, is only days away from finding out if she will be blessed—or perhaps cursed—with magic. When a vicious attack by Anglion’s ancient enemies leaves the kingdom in chaos, Sophia is forced to flee the court. Her protector by happenstance is Lieutenant Cameron Mackenzie, a member of the royal guard, raised all his life to be fiercely loyal to the Crown.

Then Sophia’s powers manifest stronger than she ever imagined they would, and Cameron and she are inextricably linked in the process. As a witch unbound by marriage rites, Sophia is not only a threat to the established order of her country, but is also a weapon for those who seek to destroy it. Faced with old secrets and new truths, she must decide if she will fight for her country or succumb to the delicious temptation of power.…

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