Book Review : Realm Breaker

Book Review : Realm BreakerRealm Breaker (Realm Breaker, #1) by Victoria Aveyard
Published by HarperTeen on May 4th 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 576
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two-stars

Save the world or end it.
A strange darkness is growing in the Ward. Even Corayne an-Amarat can feel it, tucked away in her small town at the edge of the sea.
Fate knocks on her door, in the form of a mythical immortal and a lethal assassin, who tell Corayne that she is the last of an ancient lineage—with the power to save the world from destruction.
Because a man who would burn kingdoms to the ground is raising an army unlike any seen before, bent on uprooting the foundations of the world. With poison in his heart and a stolen sword in his hand, he'll break the realm itself to claim it. And only Corayne can stop him.
Alongside an unlikely group of reluctant allies, Corayne finds herself on a desperate journey to complete an impossible task, with untold magic singing in her blood and the fate of the world on her shoulders.

Realm Breaker was my first time reading a book written by Victoria Aveyard. I have virtually sworn off young adult novels, with a few exceptions here and there, but was inspired to pick up this novel after seeing a marketing video touting the ragtag group of companions that strive to save the realm. Though I really liked the core ideas of Realm Breaker, the execution of these ideas was very basic and bland.

 

The novel, in typical fantasy fashion, is told from different and alternating perspectives. There’s an outlaw assassin named Sorasa, an immortal prince named Dom, an ambitious queen named Erida, a squire named Andry, and a young girl named Corayne, to name just a few of the main players. I wasn’t bothered at all by the switching narrators, as I’m used to this, but was more irritated by how hard Realm Breaker was trying to push the agenda that this group of forgettable people was epic. It was honestly very cringey. This is not the Fellowship of the Ring or the Rand Al’Thor and a group of friends from Edmond’s Field joining up with Moiraine and quite frankly, one could never mistake any of Realm Breakers‘s characters for anything but a lackluster imitation of better written characters.

 

“So the Companions of the Realm live on,” Andry said, looking from her back to Dom. He set his jaw, and some of the softness of his face melted away. “The quest is not failed, simply unfinished.”

 

These famous fantasy groups, though yes, made up of different characters from varying backgrounds, simply become larger than life through their deeds, or their abilities to overcome tragic backstories or obstacles along their quests. These legendary characters don’t stop along the way yo remark how epic their mismatched group is, it just is. It doesn’t help that not a single one of Realm Breakers’s characters are particularly fleshed out or interesting on their own. They’re all obviously “supposed” to come across certain ways and Realm Breaker delights in telling us how they are supposed to be, rather than showing us who they actually are.

 

“In this part of the world, where the east and west began to collide, it was difficult to seem out of place, even for them. An immortal Veder, a Jydi witch, a copper-eyed assassin, a royal squire, a criminal fugitive, and the pirate’s daughter, the Ward’s hope.”

 

Each character is incredibly one dimensional: Dom, the dimwitted, but ghastly strong immortal prince; Sorasa, the deadly assassin who thinks outside the box but doesn’t let anyone in; Andry, the squire with a heart of gold; Corayne, the sheltered chosen one hidden away from the world in the middle of nowhere, and so on and so forth. Each of these characters are more archetypes than actual fully developed characters. Regrettably, their interactions are similarly shallow.

 

I was also flabbergasted when pretty late in the story a betrayal happens. Sorasa is unsurprised and doesn’t blame the betrayer, as she privately admits to herself that she would do the same in this person’s shoes. However, when it turns out that they weren’t actually betrayed, she’s legitimately, and without humor, like, “aha! I knew you didn’t actually betray us. Took you long enough.” I honestly couldn’t believe what I was reading. This whole fake betrayal scenario takes what feels like two minutes to read and I felt like I had whiplash from reading this whole superficial act that is obviously supposed to highlight how badass Sorasa is, how epic the companions are, or how strong their bonds are, or something of that nature. Instead, it just made me once more question why I somehow still liked Realm Breaker.

 

The fact of the matter is that despite its cheesiness and how hard it’s obviously trying, I did like the principle of the story. And that story is about a young girl, Corayne, who has magic in her blood and is the only one who can stop her evil uncle from opening portals to other worlds, and consequently destroying their own, in order to serve the mysterious dark god known as “What Waits.” Along the way, she falls in with an odd group of companions, who aid her in her quest. I found the whole idea of the “spindles,” what the portals were called, and the ashen entities coming out of them to be pretty cool. I don’t know, I guess Realm Breaker still speaks to the little girl inside me who wanted to read about girls, even ones as drab as Corayne, saving the world.

 

“I’ve spent more time studying diplomacy and languages than Spindle lore. But I know my histories. Allward was a realm of crossing once, subject to great magic and terrible monsters, we mortals warring with dangers we must never face again. That cannot come to pass. If what you say is true, if this Taristan can cut open Spindles long dead, then he is very dangerous indeed, and he has an army at his back.”

 

Instead of finding Corayne interesting or compelling, I actually enjoyed reading from Queen Erida’s perspective. Queen Erida marries Corayne’s uncle in a bid to eventually become Empress, and I enjoyed reading her trying to reconcile and justify her actions with herself. She is undoubtedly the most layered character in Realm Breaker. Before long, I realized my favorite narratives to read from were by far the villains of the novel, as the author wasn’t so painfully trying to convince me that these characters were cool. Instead, they’re simply bad people doing bad things, and it feels much more natural. Do I think Erida’s relationship with Taristan was worthy of all the enemies-to-lovers marketing? Absolutely not, but it’s the most entertaining thing I read in Realm Breaker. I am excited to see where the relationship between Erida and Taristan goes in the next novel in the series, Blade Breaker.

 

“’There are breakers of castles, breakers of chains, breakers of kings and kingdoms,’ she said, her voice iron.
‘Which am I?’
Power surged through her veins, delicious and seductive. She wanted more; she needed more. ‘You are a realm breaker, Taristan. You would crack this world apart and build an empire from its ruins.’”

 

I was way more invested in the developing relationship of Taristan and Erida than I was with any relationship among the companions. It’s clear that Realm Breaker is paving the way for a relationship between Corayne and Andry, but I couldn’t care less. Both characters are completely bland, Andry has little personality beyond having a sick mother, and Corayne, despite speaking multiple languages, being the daughter of a notorious pirate, and the savior of the world, has very little agency of her own. I was originally hoping she’d be a Hermione or Nynaeve-like character, but nothing could be further than the truth. Regardless, it doesn’t feel original for a squire with a heart of gold to fall for the girl he’s protecting and it doesn’t exactly make one excited for two bland people to fall for one another in a very common circumstance.

 

Something else common is that I have seen a lot of complaints from other reviewers about finding the world building in Realm Breaker confusing or too lengthy. I actually thought the world building was pretty easy to follow and that it wasn’t too elaborate. In fact, I still don’t feel I know much about the realm everyone’s trying to save and would even like to read more lore surrounding how the Elders exactly came to settle on this world and what their previous home was like. I also certainly don’t have a firm grasp of all of the different races and cultures populating the realm either.

 

I did, however, find other things confusing in Realm Breaker. The fact that Corayne’s eyes, and that of her father and uncle, were repeatedly described as pitch black baffled me. Are their irises black? Can one even see their pupils? How does Corayne not look unnerving or like a demon? How does Andry think looking into her eyes is like looking into the starry night sky? It is absolutely nonsensical to me that not one other character has been thrown by the sight of Corayne’s eyes or that they don’t affect her ability to see or anything remotely reasonable.

 

There is absolutely nothing new in Realm Breaker and the novel does a mediocre job of implementing all of the classic fantasy tropes it blatantly wants to capitalize on, but it is an enjoyable enough light fantasy read when you keep your expectations curbed. I liked the novel enough to preorder the sequel digitally to find out what happens next in Blade Breaker.

 

two-stars
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Book Review : Realm Breaker - Blogging with Dragons

Posted June 28, 2022 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Young Adult

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