Joint Review – The Mark of the Tala (Twelve Kingdoms #1) by Jeffe Kennedy

The Mark of the Tala cover image

Publisher: Kensington
Publish Date: Out now
How we got this book: ARC from the author and publisher via Netgalley

The tales tell of three sisters, daughters of the high king. The eldest, a valiant warrior-woman, heir to the kingdom. The youngest, the sweet beauty with her Prince Charming. No one says much about the middle princess, Andromeda. Andi, the other one.

Andi doesn’t mind being invisible. She enjoys the company of her horse more than court, and she has a way of blending into the shadows. Until the day she meets a strange man riding, who keeps company with wolves and ravens, who rules a land of shapeshifters and demons. A country she’d thought was no more than legend–until he claims her as its queen.

In a moment everything changes: Her father, the wise king, becomes a warlord, suspicious and strategic. Whispers call her dead mother a traitor and a witch. Andi doesn’t know if her own instincts can be trusted, as visions appear to her and her body begins to rebel.

For Andi, the time to learn her true nature has come. . .
This blurb came from the author’s website.

BP Note: We hope you have enjoyed our Book Launch party sponsored by Jeffe Kennedy over this past week. If you haven’t had a chance to do so take a look at our mid-day posts and learn a bit about Andi’s world and enter to win some great prizes. All contests remain open until 1 Jun per the fine print. Good luck!

E: So a good eight months ago I reviewed an anthology, Thunder on the Battlefield, edited by James R. Tuck and several of the short stories caught my eye. One of those happened to be by Kennedy so I believe I started pestering her in hopes she had plans to continue writing in that particular world. Luckily for all of us she had a trilogy in mind so over these past seven days we have learned a bit about Andi’s homeland as we led up to today’s release. BTW you can still enter the giveaways.

With all of my anticipation I will admit I was a bit nervous before I started reading but partway into the story I looked up and realized that my hot cup of tea was in fact not just no longer hot but stone cold. I thought this was a very good sign given that I have grown up on fantasy and fairy tales and that I had anticipated this story for quite a while. Kennedy managed to completely suck me in.

Has: It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Fantasy Romance, and I’ve been looking forward to this trilogy ever since E told me about the short story and hearing about Jeffe Kennedy’s planned series set in this world. The Mark of The Tala definitely lived up to expectations. The setting of the world was very intriguing and I loved the set up of three princesses who each embark on different paths. I really liked the fairy tale feel which had an epic overtone due to the build-up of a huge conflict with twists and betrayals.

E: I felt for Andi, she never quite seemed to fit in. Ignored by her father, not as visible as either of her sisters, enjoying only her time roaming afield with her horse and then suddenly her life changed and everything she knew was ripped asunder. I enjoyed her initial meeting with Rayfe and how it really set the tone for both her unpredictability and the sheer amount of willpower she actually possessed if she wished to use it. However, that meeting spelled really the beginning of what almost seemed her adulthood. Following that encounter Andi struggled between choosing to let life happen to her or actually live life. While Andi dealt with some hard truths and painful bruises as she bumped up against others’ expectations and judgement, I thought they way Kennedy included that aspect necessary. It meant Andi’s growth was believable and I think gave her a mental toughness she will continue to need dealing with her father, sisters, and some of Rayfe’s people.

Has: Out of all the sisters, I think Andi was my favourite because her development from being the unremarkable and invisible sister had the most interesting evolution as a character. I definitely agree about that mental toughness and it was a facet that even those who were close to her underestimated. I liked that although she was stuck between a rock and a hard place with the choices she faced, her loyalties were always for her family and for the people of the Kingdom. Nonetheless, I liked that Andi did not shy away from making difficult decisions and the outcome of one had tragic consequences. It made me appreciate that this was a world that was harsh and filled with difficult paths and Andi really ran the gauntlet of emotions from believing herself to be this plain invisible outsider to becoming a powerful woman bearing heavy responsibilities. It was fantastic to see how this played out and I really loved the magical elements that were introduced and what really being marked with The Tala entailed.

E: Rayfe…a man growing up under a huge responsibility, granted one that he chose but still. I thought it rather cute how he bungled things with Andi but did what he could to set things right. However, I understood a lot of Andi’s frustration/impatience with him because he so obviously “knew” things and wasn’t telling her. But on the other hand I also understood why he wasn’t telling because he had already erred in thinking Andi knew what was going on so he was trying to gradually introduce a new world to her. I do think he needs to watch his back because not everyone is happy about Andi and I have a sneaky suspicion that a certain death really wasn’t an accident.

Has: Rayfe was a great choice as hero material for Andi. I liked that he gave her space and time to adjust to her fate, even though he messed up badly with their first meeting. But he was very understanding towards Andi who was wary and reluctant to leave everything she knew and loved. I also loved him introducing Annfwn and the people of The Tala. The world-building was really well thought-out and I really liked the glimpse of the mystery of Andi’s mother and her relationship with her father which had an interesting and unexpected twist especially how it linked with the way the Twelve Kingdoms came to be. The mythology of the three goddesses, was also fascinating and I liked how that interlinked with the sisters and their own set fates which adds to the epic tone of the series.

E: I did enjoy Andi and Rayfe’s relationship. Kennedy included a line in one particular scene which really told me a lot about both characters. “Rayfe watched me with gentle patience, and I knew then he’d let this take as long as I needed it to.” It told me that Rayfe was patient, determined, and willing to do what he needed for Andi to come into her own. And it also said that he knew she was capable of a lot more than she ever thought. On Andi’s side, while she might not have found her place in the world, she was also no longer invisible and she had someone who wanted her to make her place not just exist. I do hope as this series continues we get to see more of their relationship and life together develop.

Has: I kind of wished there were more scenes with them because I really liked how their romance developed and progressed throughout the book. I loved their chemistry and their love scenes were sizzling but I also liked the quieter moments between them especially when Rayfe got Andi to open up about herself and fears. Rayfe was just fantastic and I also loved how supportive he became of her. I hope we get to see more of them in future books because I get the sense there is much more to come for these two characters especially with Andi’s new-found as being marked by The Tala and Rayfe’s role as the King of The Tala.

E: I mentioned on Twitter before I started reading that I was about to dive into an adult fantasy/fairy tale and I was so right. The vivid descriptions, the magic, promises made and not kept, incessant hunger for power at all costs, the price of becoming an adult, and the loss of innocence. With The Mark of The Tala, Kennedy has started a fantastic new world with very intriguing characters. I look forward to seeing how Andi’s sisters change, what happens to her father, the intrigue within The Tala, and the results of a broken promise. Surely there must be a price to pay for that.
I give The Mark of The Tala an A-

Has: The Mark of The Tala was a wonderful start of the series. I loved the world, which was fascinating and the magical elements was seamless with its world-building with a kingdom that is starting to implode due to secrets and betrayals. The rich and vibrant characters especially that of the main leads were memorable and appealing. You also have to love the court intrigue and politics which is leading to a huge war that promises that this is going to be an epic fantasy romance. I am really looking forward where the story goes next and to see what kind of epic journey Andi’s sisters, Ursula and Amelia will embark to face their fates.
I give The Mark of The Tala an A-

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