Review: Fantastical (Fantasyland, #3), by Kristen Ashley

Fantastical (Fantasyland, #3)Fantastical by Kristen Ashley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The third book in the ‘Fantasyland’ series, ‘Fantastical’ ended up being just an “okay” read for me. In all fairness, any book that had to follow ‘The Golden Dynasty’ probably wouldn’t have measured up for me. ‘Fantastical’ was that book. It paled in comparison.

‘Fantastical’ tells the story of Cora Goode and Prince Noctorno “Tor” Hawthorne. Beginning in a similar fashion to ‘The Golden Dynasty’, the Cora of modern-day Seattle wakes up in the parallel universe as her “otherworld twin”. However, that is where the similarities end.

The Cora of this world discovers that the Cora of the other world is kind of a pain in the ass. Unbeknownst to her, she makes a grave mistake upon her arrival in the “new” world, which sets off a curse. It doesn’t take long for her to figure out that her inadvertent action is only the latest in a long line of selfish, cruel behaviors on the part of her “twin”.

To make matters worse, she finds out that she is married in this alternate world…and her husband despises her. Apparently, twin Cora and her husband, Prince Noctorno “Tor” Hawthorne, can barely tolerate one another. This means that Cora is subjected to a LOT of Tor’s ire upon her arrival in this new world.

She has an uphill battle on her hands to win him over. Yet, she genuinely likes Tor and wants him to like her. She is faced with the difficult task of trying to re-vamp her image with virtually everyone that the other Cora had wronged in this world.

Tor is certain that his wife is playing games with him. He cannot figure out what has motivated her sudden change in personality, but he is happy to enjoy it while it lasts. Finally having the wife that he fantasized about, he is hesitant to grow too attached only to be heartbroken when she decides to revert to her old ways.

Eventually, Cora and Tor seem to get on the same page. Things are pretty peachy for awhile. Then, Cora overhears something that upsets her greatly and she is transported back to her world again.

While I liked Cora and Tor’s story, I didn’t love it. For every part that was highly enjoyable, there were parts that seemed to drag on and on without purpose. Maybe this had something to do with the fact that I listened to all of the audiobooks back to back, or that this book followed ‘The Golden Dynasty’, which was hands-down the best in the series. Regardless, much of this book seemed tedious to me.

Noctorno does finally come around and works to win Cora over again. For me, it was just too little too late. I was glad that they got their HEA, but I was mostly glad to finish this book.

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Review: The Golden Dynasty (Fantasyland, #2), by Kristen Ashley

The Golden Dynasty (Fantasyland, #2)The Golden Dynasty by Kristen Ashley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Of all the books in Kristen Ashley’s ‘Fantasyland’ series, ‘The Golden Dynasty’ was by far my favorite. I love dark, controversial romances that make you love them in spite of all reason. This was one of those stories. I spent as much time cringing as I did smiling, but I couldn’t have asked for more. I loved this one!

If you’ve read many of Ms. Ashley’s books, then it goes without saying that the hero is an over-the-top Alpha. Dax Lahn, King of Suh Tunak and the Horde of Korwahk, was pretty intimidating, even by her standards. In his world, the men are warriors that are prized for their physical dominance and ability to take what they want, including a wife. As they roam around raiding villages, they murder, rob and rape. They are barbarians.

Circe goes to sleep in her world, but wakes up in a parallel world. She has no idea of how she ended up there, unlike Finnie who agreed to trade places with her otherworldly twin in the first book. A quick assessment of the situation has Circe, rightfully, terrified. She has awoken to a real-life nightmare.

Along with several other women, Circe is caged. Provided only scraps of clothing, she is told that she has been selected to participate in a great Korwahk tradition. What tradition? The wife hunt.

The wife hunt is exactly what it sounds like. A group of women are rounded up and dressed in skimpy outfits. Then, after being displayed for the Horde warriors, they are released…and hunted. The men track down the women, overpowering any other warrior challengers, and “claim” their wife right then and there. To say the least, this is a horrific, traumatic and uncivilized tradition.

This is how Circe comes to be Dax’s wife. Understandably, she hated him. Their relationship developed gradually. Eventually, it turned into something beautiful. This was a story that appealed to baser urges.

As primitive as Dax could be, he revered his wife in his own way. This was something that Circe came to recognize and appreciate. Granted, she was far more forgiving that I could have ever imagined possible…but it is fiction and a romance, so you knew it had to happen to move the story along.

Even as the feminist side of me thinks that I should be appalled by this story, the honest part of me has to admit that I was completely addicted. Circe came to wield a great deal of power in her own way, capitalizing upon the great deal of admiration that her husband had for her. It certainly wasn’t a politically correct type of story, but it was beautiful in it’s own right.

I fell in love with Dax, right along with Circe. Here was this super-tough, barbarous bad-ass, who truly couldn’t understand why his behaviors were so off-putting to his new wife. Even as he was determined to dominate her, he was saddened to think of his actions crushing her spirit in any way. He wanted her to submit to him, while loving the fight and her spirit.

If you are looking for a romance with a hot-headed Alpha hero, then look no further. This book will not disappoint. It is by far, my favorite of the books in this series.

On the other hand, if you are sensitive to darker subject matter, like rape and physical violence, then you’ll want to steer clear of this one. It is full to the brim with controversial topics. All the more reason for me to love it, but I know that isn’t the case for many readers. Be forewarned.

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