Sunday, January 6, 2019

#BookReview: Realm by Alexandrea Weis

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Based on a true story.

When her homeland is conquered by the mighty Alexander the Great, Roxana—the daughter of a mere chieftain—is torn from her simple life and thrown into a world of war and intrigue.

Terrified, the sixteen-year-old girl of renowned beauty is brought before the greatest ruler the world has ever known. Her life is in his hands; her future his to decide.

Without formal education or noble blood, Roxana is chosen by the Greek conqueror to be his bride. Soon she comes to know profound happiness and unyielding desire in her warrior’s arms.

However, being the king’s consort comes at a heavy price. To survive her husband’s treacherous kingdom, she must endure continuous warfare, deadly plots, jealous rivals, victory-hungry generals, and the stigma of being a barbarian. Persian blood will keep her from claiming the grandest title of all—queen—but her reign will seal the fate of an empire.

History tells his story. This is hers. 

Alexandrea Weis’ Realm proved a poor fit for me. The subject matter is there, but the themes didn’t materialize the way I needed them to.

Roxana struck me as inconsistent, and I had difficulty appreciating her character. She experiences moments of strength, but she backslides so quickly that those moments struck me as inauthentic. She also relies heavily on the women around her, so much that I found characters like Yasmin and Morella more compelling than Roxana herself.

I liked Weis’ take on Alexander, but here again, I was often confused. He is a POV character, but he enjoys the privilege infrequently, and I struggled with the imbalance that created in the fabric of the narrative. I was also frustrated that most of his interactions with Roxana are spent between the sheets. I do not mind the content, but I needed chemistry outside the bedroom as well.

I enjoyed Weis' use of the Achilles/Patroclus parallel to Alexander/Hephaestion, but I think she could have done more with it. The author tells more than she shows between these two, and I felt myself longing for greater depth than the novel ultimately afforded. I also felt the novel thin on historical detail, but that has more to do with my tastes than it does anything else.

Structurally, I felt the story should have begun with the final chapter and proceeded in retrospect, but I also wanted a distinct antagonist. For the vast majority of the novel, Roxana’s greatest enemy is herself, and I needed something more tangible than personal demons. The final third of the novel gets more political, but that section was a long time coming and felt like an entirely different book.

At the end of the day, I would have a hard time recommending Weis’ Realm over Thornton’s The Conqueror’s Wife, but that’s just me. Weis’ effort has good bones, but I needed more robust thematic content and greater complexity than this novel afforded. 

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: January 3, 2019

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