Today is my stop on the Havenfall blog tour for the FFBC! I'll be sharing my review and telling you a bit more about the book and its author.
Add the book to your Goodreads TBR here.
A safe haven between four realms. The girl sworn to protect it –– at any cost. New York Times bestselling author Sara Holland crafts a breathtaking new contemporary fantasy perfect for fans of Melissa Albert and Holly Black.
Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects ancient worlds –– each with their own magic –– together. For generations, the inn has protected all who seek refuge within its walls, and any who disrupt the peace can never return.
For Maddie Morrow, summers at the inn are more than a chance to experience this magic first-hand. Havenfall is an escape from reality, where her mother sits on death row accused of murdering Maddie's brother. It's where Maddie fell in love with handsome Fiorden soldier Brekken. And it's where one day she hopes to inherit the role of Innkeeper from her beloved uncle.
But this summer, the impossible happens –– a dead body is found, shattering everything the inn stands for. With Brekken missing, her uncle gravely injured, and a dangerous creature on the loose, Maddie suddenly finds herself responsible for the safety of everyone in Havenfall. She'll do anything to uncover the truth, even if it means working together with an alluring new staffer Taya, who seems to know more than she's letting on. As dark secrets are revealed about the inn itself, one thing becomes clear to Maddie –– no one can be trusted, and no one is safe . . .
Sara Holland takes the lush fantasy that captured readers in Everless and Evermore and weaves it into the real world to create a wholly captivating new series where power and peril lurk behind every door.
About the Author:
Sara Holland grew up in small-town Minnesota among hundreds of books. She graduated from Wesleyan University and worked in a tea shop, a dentist’s office, and a state capitol building before heading to New York to work in publishing. These days, she can be found exploring the city’s bookstores or finding new ways to put caffeine in her bloodstream. Everless is her debut novel.
*Thank you to FFBC and Bloomsbury YA for providing me with an ARC of this book. Some parts may have been changed as I did not read the final book. Please know that all of the expressed thoughts are my honest opinions.
Havenfall by Sara Holland is a light fantasy story with a mystery/suspense element mixed in. What drew me to the story was the idea of a shared sanctuary on Earth between all the ancient worlds and their different magics, where everyone could connect and come together.
Maddie Morrow is the main character who lives with her father and his wife because her mother is on death row, accused of killing her brother. Her only solace from the sideways glances and whispers of her daily life is at the Inn at Havenfall, where people from ancient worlds come to connect. This summer, she wants to convince her uncle, the Innkeeper, to allow her to stay with him to learn about the job, with the eventual goal of taking over. And yet, with this intriguing backstory, Maddie did not impress me. I understand that her life and family were torn apart because of the murder, but you'd think that it would make her less whiny and annoying. When her uncle becomes gravely injured, Maddie must step up to the position as Innkeeper. It isn't under ideal circumstances, but the entire time, Maddie just keeps complaining about not wanting to do this or that or blaming her uncle for not teaching her x, y, and z. The other irritating aspect of her personality is how naive she is: she's too trusting and cannot seem to pick up on shady/suspicious hints. She doesn't have a growth mindset, nor does she seem to grow at all during the book. However, to her credit, she is incredibly determined and willing to step up to the challenge. As much as she complains about it, Maddie doesn't shrink from her duties, and on the inside, is a good person.
The other characters in Havenfall sadly weren't anything special, which is disappointing as some are quite literally from other worlds. They were cookie-cutter like, with awkward mannerisms and full of predictability. For example, none of the characters are subtle in their motives or type of character they are (ex. villains exude villain energy and general sliminess). It seems very MG to have such blatantly obvious villains, rather than subtly hinting at the idea or allowing the character to reveal themselves. Part of the appeal of books like Havenfall is trying to find out the cause of the murder and the crimes –– not being handed the villain on a silver platter. The characters also had some strange and overly sappy dialogue. Some of the lines sounded as if they came right out of a motivational self-help book.
The world and plot were simplistic, as well. I liked that there was a guide that talked about the worlds at the beginning, rather than getting the info dumped all at once (which takes me out of the world) or barely giving any info (which leaves me confused). The rules about world traveling were particularly interesting to me because they changed with each world, with the Inn at Havenfall being the only safe place for long periods. The goal was straightforwards: get to the bottom of what is happening at the inn and keep everyone safe, unsuspicious, and peaceful at the same time. The plot was easy to follow, and while there were one or two side tasks, finding the truth is always at the forefront. The plot wasn't necessarily slow, but the descriptions are what made the half-a-week(?) timeline feel at least like two weeks. The only time when the pace seemed to match the plot was at the ending, where everything starts to come together –– in an extremely obvious way (except for one little plot twist). Looking at the big picture, the plot was executed well. There weren't any major holes left open, and I was able to follow along. Once I looked past all the frustrating parts, I realized that I greatly enjoyed the story and how it all played out.
In general, the descriptions were heavy-handed. And to make matters worse, sometimes the extra descriptions left me even more confused. In one case, I got a paragraph full of instrument descriptions from an ancient world. Did I need to know all of that information? Nope. Did it add anything to the story? Not really. It was also difficult for me to envision some aspects as I was too busy trying to wrap my mind around all the overly specific descriptions. Thankfully, I was only confused about trivial things. I was easily able to understand the big picture and the world, which I give Holland a lot of credit for being able to do. And like I touched on in the previous paragraphs, there was a lack of subtly in the writing. I was excepting more nuanced writing, rather than the almost explicit way in some parts. I think that Holland was trying for some mystery and suspense by posing almost rhetorical-like questions, but the execution was poor. For example, there were one or two moments where Maddie internally asks or takes note that the eyes of one person seem familiar somehow in a way she cannot place. Making the connection as to what Maddie was thinking about was easy. I wish instead, a seed of an idea was planted. Additionally, one of the most frustrating parts was how coincidental and predictable some things were. In general, I'm not too fond of coincidences in fiction and fantasy books that rely on that connection to progress the story. All coincidences will feel artificial, but as long as they aren't relevant to the big picture story, I don't care. And predictability is predicability. It is hard not to have in a book, but Havenfall, in particular, was disappointingly full of it. In defense of the writing, however, I was quickly sucked into the world. I cannot remember a single moment that completely pulled me out of the story. And while the extra descriptions made the timeline seem longer than it was, the book itself was a fast read (I'm not sure how to really describe what I am talking about –– this is the best that I've got). The ending was epic and a great culmination of all the things building up over the story.
Overall, while the star rating that I am giving this book may seem disproportional to the parts that bothered me, it is ultimately the ending and the plot that influenced my more favorable rating. My biggest annoyances came from overly simplistic characters with obvious motivations, predictability, and heavy-handed descriptions. I would recommend it with reservations but, I am planning on reading the next book.
If you've also read Havenfall, I'd love to hear your thoughts about it! Do you feel the same way I do, or do you have another opinion?