Sunday, February 10, 2013

Allegiance, by Cayla Kluver- Review

From Goodreads:
An eighteen-year-old queen in love with the enemy as their countries pass the point of no return...

Bound to a man she cannot love, Queen Alera of Hytanica must forget Narian, the young man who holds her heart. For Narian is destined to conquer Hytanica at the behest of his master, the powerful magic-user known as the Overlord. Alera doesn't truly believe Narian will fight against Hytanica-until Cokyrian troops attack with Narian commanding the charge.

Faced with the greatest betrayal a heart can know, Alera must set aside personal feelings and lead her kingdom through its darkest time. And when all hope, will and courage seem lost, she must find strength and remember that even the blackest night must have a dawn...

I had high hopes that this was going to be the part of the trilogy where Alera stepped up to the plate and became a more intriguing girl character and grew a backbone.  After 88 pages of silly shenanigans and stupidity she finally stood up to her father, said all the things I was thinking during Legacy.  
"If you feel ashamed, perhaps it is because of your own foolhardiness and not due to mine."
My father's eyebrows rose in astonishment. "Do not speak to your father in such a manner!"
"Do not speak to your Queen in such a manner!"
The former King was struck dumb, my passion a wall with which he had unexpectedly and painfully collided. "You have the gall to come to me and say that I am immature, that I have disappointed you and that I am incompetent, when it was you who were too selfish to allow me additional time before taking the throne, you who would not hear that any I loved could be a suitable king and you who pressured me into a marriage for which I was not prepared. All these things for which you are chastising me are of your design. I would not have met secretly with Narian had I thought you would accept him. I would not be an inept queen had you not charged me with the throne. And I would not be a distraction to Steldor had you not trapped me into being his wife." I had crossed the room to my father, who stood with his mouth open as if he desired to argue, to defend himself, but was unable to conjure the words. "I wish, perhaps more than you, that you had given these decisions further thought," I bitingly added. "But I am now your Queen, and you will show me proper respect. You will never address me in this way again."
I sighed the sigh of the fulfilled and eagerly dug into the rest of the book.  But alas, it was not to be.

One of the things I found increasingly frustrating, as I read through Kluver's series, is the fact her male characters are so much more developed then her females.  You see them struggle, grow, and change as the story moves on, and they have depths and faults that make them intriguing and real.  Alera, however, is forever the same, a spoiled, immature girl, who hands off all decision making, all action, all authority, to which ever male comes along.  What's worse is she spends the entirety of Allegiance talking about how she wants to have more control, how she would like to be taken more seriously and contemplating how to do that, and yet when she is let into decision making meetings she cowers, becomes flustered, cries, or ends up sitting on the floor in the corner.  It's down right laughable when London starts referring to Alera as capable and made of stronger stuff then generally acknowledged, I can't imagine what would give him that idea.

Alera's relationship with Steldor was also a source of frustration.  Kluver grows Steldor into a very nuanced character, and gives the reader plenty of sympathy for him as the story carries on, the fact that Alera never softens towards him, refuses to accept her marriage with him (even though she did agree to it), and generally treats him poorly, left me feeling even less inclined to like her.  It also did little to warm me towards her continuing feelings with Narian (which became a huge problem for me in the third book), and caused a lot of eye rolling during some of the more dramatic scenes of the book.

Once again I was also struck by how very un-royal Alera was.  As her kingdom becomes seriously in danger of being overtaken by the Overlord, Alera spends increasing amounts of time wallowing and being panicked to the point of needing caring for, making her completely useless as a monarch.  She rarely acknowledges she's one of two protectors for a kingdom of people who are looking to her to save them, and when she is faced with how dire their situation is, instead of drawing strength and taking control, she crumbles and collapses, needing to be removed from the heat and smells of being stuck amongst them.

All of this being said, I fell totally in love with Steldor, Cannan, Galen and the various guards.  The nuancing in their characters, and how Kluver has each of them step up to the plate is fascinating, especially given the turmoil of war.  In the end, it was their story, and the reveals about their personalities and pasts that kept me from loosing my patience and putting Allegiance down.  

Allegiance, by Cayla Kluver
Published by Harlequin Teen, February 2012


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