REVIEW: THE VOW THAT TWISTED FATE BY KATHERINE D. GRAHAM

Title: THE VOW THAT TWISTED FATE
Author: KATHERINE D. GRAHAM
Publication Date: JULY 9, 2021
Rating: 4/5

SYNOPSIS

A world without evil is all Queen Arlena has ever known. But when an ominous pentagram appears in the sky, her innocent days of blissful court life, playing politics with other races, and daydreaming of marrying the stoic elven prince Talen come to an abrupt end.

When an eerily familiar phantasm warns her of the imminent collision of a parallel world ruled by an ancient sorceress, Arlena must confront the true nature of not only her own world, but her very existence.

Calling a company of legendary dwarven warriors into her time, Arlena and her allies must brave a world they are completely unprepared for in order to save their own. Will the naive Queen and her companions be able to stop the invasion without being forever changed in the process?

Reading this book is a big brain time. I’m so glad that many books I’d read so far this year has unique stories including this one. The splitting of souls and reincarnation things are what made the story of this book unique. This may not be a new concept but the way it was written and explained, and how it was done are excellent. I’ll talk more about this later.

I surely thought that this book is a twisted retelling of Snow White and Rose Red at first, especially with the mention of the White Queen, the Dwarvenkin, and how the book cover looks. I came to the conclusion that this book might be about twin sisters fighting against one another. Well, I was not necessarily wrong but not necessarily right either. There’s more to the story than what I thought at first.

I was really eager to find out the whole explanation and the whole truth about what happened in this book. When I read the prologue chapter about the ‘Two Queen’s War,’ I was intrigued to know how the war started. It really got me hooked until the end. I was really satisfied with the storyline and how it ended.

This is a story about Queen Arlena (the main protagonist) and her journey to stop the long-time feud between Valera the White Queen and Maedra the Dark Queen once and for all. It was said that she is the reincarnation of Valera, and she believed that Valera is her ancestor. Or is it?

It sounds kind of simple at first: Arlena who is the descendant or reincarnation of the late Queen Valera to fight Maedra the Dark Queen so she can finish what Valera started. Well, not that simple as the story goes on. The twists and turns shocked me and I had to activate my big brain mode just so I can understand what was going on.

At first, it was hard to understand the complex explanation regarding the splitting of souls stuff when it comes to the identity of Arlena, Maedra, and Valera. Some might think they are identical triplets but actually they are not. Readers may also find it hard to understand the explanation if read in one go. I had to reread back some paragraphs to better understand the whole situation so that I won’t get myself confused. Took me a few tries to finally get it all and find that the explanation actually made a lot of sense. Like I said, big brain time is needed in order to read this book.

I find the way one soul can be split into many parts and how the split souls belonged to different dimensions are actually very unique even though it can get a bit confusing. And it was kind of a new concept too, as in how the souls are tied to the dimensions mentioned in the book and why a demon was involved. Usually, stories with a concept of splitting souls aren’t involving demons or different dimensions (from the stories I’d read). So, it was really refreshing to see the concept of splitting souls being written and used differently in this book. It really gives a new feeling to this concept.

As for the dimensions, there are three but in the book only two appeared for reasons I don’t want to spoil. The whole dimension thing was easy to understand compared to the soul splitting thing (like I said, took me a few tries to get it). The dimension Arlena came from is should I just say the pure one, since her soul is pure and as for the other dimension it is called the demon dimension. These two dimensions are the total opposite of one another: one is light and one is dark which to me make a lot of sense considering the point of the story is good vs evil.

The pure dimension has a peaceful setting compared to the demon dimension. The pure one have humans living amongst other creatures such as centaurs, dwarves, elves, fairies etc. peacefully. It was also a lot brighter too and doesn’t feel deadly. As for the demon dimension, it was bleak and really suffocating to me based on how the characters described it. I imagined it more like a steampunk world with evil creatures everywhere. The reason why I imagined it that way is because it was mentioned that the demon dimension have machines and the evil creatures fought using guns, whereas those in the pure dimension are using swords along with bows and arrows. To me, it was more like a dark steampunk world vs a bright medieval world.

Aside from that, there was also a mention of magic in this book and also some explanations regarding how certain magic works. There aren’t too much magic actions in the book which I really didn’t mind since the storyline alone is already interesting enough for me to enjoy reading the entire book. I was more hooked by the souls and dimensions part actually, but I do appreciate the little amount of magic that the author included in the story.

Also, I would like to mention the phantasm stuff which was really awesome to read about. The moment it appeared in the story, that was the moment I knew things are going to get really crazy as in big things are coming whether they’re good or bad. The first time Valera’s phantasm reached out to Arlena, that moment marked the start of things getting more interesting. That was the moment that sped things up for the rest of the story and it kept getting better and better after that.

Another thing I want to talk about is the fire dance ceremony which is a tradition of the Dwarvenkin wedding ceremony. I liked how the author also included this one in the story as a way to introduced to the readers about the dwarves tradition and how do they celebrate the wedding. The dragons also make their special appearance too as a way to granted the wish of the newly married couple. The dwarves wedding tradition is truly a wonderful one.

The wedding celebration part is by far my most favorite because everyone are happy dancing and laughing. They’ve spent the majority of the book stressing out about the looming war with the Dark Queen and to see everyone being so carefree made me smile happily. For once, they don’t have to stress themselves out and worrying about the war, and they get to enjoy their free time to celebrate a beautiful and special occasion.

While the wedding ceremony is the part that made me happy, it was also the part that made me cry the hardest because of what happened after the ceremony ended. Reading any scenes that involved the protagonist of the stories saying goodbye to their loved ones be it because they are going to the final battle or because of many other reasons, the goodbye scenes always hit the hardest. I always cried reading it in any books I ever read, including this one.

I knew Arlena eventually had to leave with her husband and their companions that will go to the battle with them, and I was prepared for the goodbye scene but when it did happen, I can’t stop the tears. I automatically cried and it was the hardest scene for me to read knowing what her fate will be like and knowing what will happen once the war is totally over. The moment she said goodbye to her family and friends, that was the moment that my heart broke. The feeling was really intense, it really hurts.

I told myself when I was still halfway through reading the book that I wanted for Arlena to just leave everyone behind due to how she was treated the whole time, and when she made the decision to do so, I was hoping she would go back. Despite how bittersweet the ending was, I had to admit that the ending was perfect for the story and for Arlena and her husband too. If she were to go back to her family and friends after the battle ended then the ending of this book would be just like the ending of many other books. Another point given to this book for having a refreshing ending.

Now let’s talk about the characters…

Arlena is the Queen of Thorum Guard who believed she is the descendant of Valera the White Queen while everyone think she is the reincarnation of Valera. Like I said earlier, there’s more to her identity. Who is she really? And what is her connection to Valera and Maedra? These three have the same face actually except for Maedra’s hair and eye colors are different than both Arlena and Valera’s.

I was actually puzzled about who she actually is the moment the souls stuff was brought up. Finding out the truth made me realize what Valera did years ago, and why Arlena had to finish what she started, and why Maedra was after Arlena. When the truth was revealed, everything finally came to full circle and the connection between these three are bigger than I expected. It made sense too why Arlena doesn’t have any memories of her life before she was five.

She was an amazing protagonist for this story. Despite having a lack of physical combat skills with or without weapons, that doesn’t mean she is a weak queen. She is in fact a strong queen with magical abilities who knew how to rule her own kingdom and knew what to do in dangerous situations. Her leadership skills are excellent enough to prove that she is fit to rule as a queen. The way she was handling court matters and meetings amazed me.

Whenever her role as a queen was questioned by King Theylin for the most part (the Elvenkin King), she was patient enough to take the criticism and keep on proving him wrong. She didn’t lose control, and she didn’t bite back by replying to whatever he said in a rude manner. There are also parts when others gave her the cold treatment as in mad at her when in fact she had no idea what she did wrong, and they cut her off when she was in the middle of talking to them. Also, the part when Maevric (the Dwarvenkin King) ignored her presence and she felt hurt by that, Talen (the Elven Prince) didn’t warm up to her even though he is her sworn protector and that made her sad, and Elzie (her sister) got angry at her then treated her rudely and that made her cry.

She didn’t do anything wrong, and she always did her best to make everyone satisfied with the decision she made. She always think before she did something because she knew that if she were reckless and made a rash decision, nothing good will come out of it. She knew the consequences hence why she was so careful the whole time. She is the innocent soul in this whole story, and I disliked how the others are treating her. Luckily, she’s not the type of person that has a temper. The others didn’t know what she’d been through, what she experienced, and the things that she saw and witnessed. They looked at her as if she is a disappointment to her people or that she taint the legacy of the White Queen.

She is called Arlena the Fair for a reason and that reason is because she has always been fair. She wasn’t a selfish person who cares about herself. She always put others first before herself. She has a big and kind heart who sees the good in others and the evil creatures from Maedra’s dimension. The creatures aren’t actually evil, and Arlena was the one who freed those creatures from Maedra’s control which in turn made them respect her.

Arlena as a character is definitely the best. She treats everyone fairly and kindly. She didn’t do a single bad thing in the story considering her soul is the most pure as was stated later on. It was just so frustrating for me to see the way she was treated by basically everyone. Her character may not have a big development but she was still interesting enough to carry the whole story from the start until the end. Out of all the characters I want to give a hug to the most is only her.

Maevric is one of the main characters in this book, and he is a grumpy one. He seems like the type of character who aren’t happy with the world. I couldn’t warm up to his character at first due to how he treated Arlena, but the more he opens up about himself and showed the vulnerable side of him, the easier it gets for me to understand him and easier for me to slowly warm up to his character. He was cold and distant when he first appeared but it was understandable after what he had to go through and not to mention seeing Arlena for the first time thinking it was Valera whom he loved so much. That was really hard for him, but still that doesn’t give him the right to treat Arlena the way he did the first few times after he met her.

With his appearance in the story, it gave more insight on the battle between Valera and Maedra that happened 500 years ago. He shed light on what actually happened in the battle which surprised me knowing everything that occurred in the battle. He and his men are very brave to stand with Valera while many of their allies cowardly left the battlefield. No wonder he harbored a strong hatred toward Theylin. I have much respect toward the Dwarvenkin for their bravery, especially Maevric for leading them. He is in fact a good leader to his kind.

Talen on the other hand is very dismissive and reserved. He always seems like he wasn’t impressed especially anything that has to do with Arlena’s actions even though she did nothing wrong. His disapproval of her is very high to me but that was because he’s the hardest character to read and understand. I’ve been asking myself what did he want? He’s not the type to be open about himself to anybody. Despite being so guarded and always serious, he’s the best sworn protector a queen can have. He did his duty without making a mistake and always be the one to make sure everything is safe. His character is great but I couldn’t stand how he treated Arlena, the queen he was sworn to protect.

Every time she wanted to have a proper conversation with him, he couldn’t go through with it. He always dismissed her and gave her the ‘serious’ look. I get that he doesn’t need to smile all the time but at least warm up a little bit to her, it’s not like she made his life difficult or forced him to be her sworn protector. She actually treated him nicely but he was the one who did the opposite. I’m honestly annoyed with how he act. Despite all of that, I also feel sad for him because of how his father, Theylin, acted toward him. He just wanted his father to be proud of him and his job. I have no doubt that Theylin is proud of him but Theylin is known as someone who doesn’t show emotions, so I totally get it if Talen inherited that part of his father, would really explains why he acted the way he was.

Maedra is a very complex character. I thought I had her figured out when the pieces fall into place, but turns out there was a big twist with her character just like there are twists with Arlena and Valera’s characters. She can be so intimidating to the point where I was scared of her. She had a very strong dark aura, add it to her terrifying power and her twisted mind then this book have the perfect villain. The thing is, she is not a villain like not in the conscious sense. She had a big heart, saw beauty in the ugly creatures, saw good in the evil souls, and most importantly she just wanted to help those in need to be better. Her character is the most misunderstood.

The more I think about it, the more sad I felt toward her whole situation. She was called a demon and a monster while she just wanted to do good. Valera clearly mistook her for something else and exiled her to a dimension that is very eerie not even a normal person would survive. Valera tried to do good by getting rid of the evil in her but her way of doing it affected both Maedra and Arlena on a bigger scale. Arlena has always been the answer to end the feud once and for all due to her purest soul. When I found out the truth about Maedra and who has been in control of her all this time, I was shocked. That was a great twist and proved that she is in fact not evil but she was just misunderstood by many and used by the very thing that can rain hell on everyone. Maedra is literally the perfect example of ‘a heroine mistaken for a villain.’

I don’t have much to say about Valera other than that she is just as strong and courageous as people described her. She is a brave woman who knows what she’s doing. She did make mistakes and paid for it but she also redeemed herself and realized her errors. The way her character was handled is a solid 10 to me. She is a true warrior and a powerful queen despite her flaws. The more I get to learn about her as a person and her past, the more I understand why she is a well-respected person. She and Arlena both did a great job at ruling their kingdom as queens.

Now moving on to the romance part. I wouldn’t mind if there’s no romance at all especially after seeing how Arlena was treated. Everybody was mean to her and I didn’t like it. I get their reasons but they didn’t know how exhausted she felt having to handle everything, and what she’d suffered on the inside. Not to mention the main love interest, Maevric who basically ignored her after they met. That was cold and I can feel Arlena’s sadness.

I thought she was going to end up with Talen and to be honest, I was rooting for them in the beginning but when he always look so pissed at her, I knew it won’t happen and I was fine with it. Arlena clearly deserve better than him.

Enter Maevric who thought Arlena was Valera at first considering both women have the same face. When he found out Arlena isn’t Valera, it was sad to see him heartbroken all over again but also it wasn’t right of him to ignored Arlena and being cold toward her afterward. She already had it rough with everyone questioning her position as a queen, and she definitely didn’t need Maevric to question her position too when she was hoping to have him as her strongest ally.

Every time he felt something for her, he compared her to Valera. Whenever Arlena felt happy at the slight kindness Maevric showed her, he brought up Valera and it made her sad. It took him quite some time to finally be able to admit that he indeed have feelings for Arlena. It wasn’t a surprised that these two are each other’s soulmate. And Arlena, even though her feelings for Maevric grew bigger, she still wanted to get Talen’s attention. I was stressed out and basically wanted her to forget about him. Luckily, a part of her that has been missing all these years came back to her which in turns gave her the full memories of her past life with Maevric.

I wasn’t sure about Arlena and Maevric together at first, I just didn’t see the chemistry between them at all even though they shared a deep connection with each other and even after Arlena remembered everything about her past. I still felt weirded out by how fast Maevric went from giving Arlena the cold shoulder to telling her he cared about her but he can’t give his heart to telling her that she wanted him just as much as he wanted her. I got a whiplash from reading those parts. But I’m going to admit that later on he treated her kindly and was too sweet to her. He took a good care of her way better than Talen did and that to me is a good partner. The way he never left her side when she was injured and physically weak because of it was sweet. He even fell asleep in her room while waiting for her to wake up. He kept on proving that he indeed cares for her.

I might not be able to warm up to the fact that they’re together romantically for now mainly because their relationship is underdeveloped in the book which made it hard for me to see the chemistry between them. But regardless, I was happy with their happy ending. Seeing Arlena secured her happiness is what I wanted to see from the beginning of the story.

This book was great and the story was brilliant. The twists and turns made it more interesting, especially the twist the author put in the ‘good vs evil’ concept for this book. The Dwarvenkin parts, Arlena overcoming her fears and becoming the strong warrior she was known for, and the wedding are the highlights of the entire story to me. I really enjoyed reading this amazing dark and twisty story even though I cried so hard near the end. I highly recommend this wonderful book to those who are looking for a new and unique take on the ‘good vs evil’ storyline.

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