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Review: Dividing Eden - Joelle Charbonneau

Dividing Eden Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau
Series: Dividing Eden #1
My rating: {★★★☆☆}

YA Fantasy
Published June 6th 2017 by HarperTeen

Source: ARC received HarperCollins via NetGalley
Twins Carys and Andreus were never destined to rule Eden. With their older brother next in line to inherit the throne, the future of the kingdom was secure.

But appearances—and rivals—can be deceiving. When Eden’s king and crown prince are killed by assassins, Eden desperately needs a monarch, but the line of succession is no longer clear. With a ruling council scheming to gain power, Carys and Andreus are faced with only one option—to take part in a Trial of Succession that will determine which one of them is worthy of ruling the kingdom.

As sister and brother, Carys and Andreus have always kept each other safe—from their secrets, from the court, and from the monsters lurking in the mountains beyond the kingdom’s wall. But the Trial of Succession will test the bonds of trust and family.

With their country and their hearts divided, Carys and Andreus will discover exactly what each will do to win the crown. How long before suspicion takes hold and the thirst for power leads to the ultimate betrayal?
The thing is, I'm an absolute sucker for YA Fantasies and Dividing Eden seems to have it all - assassinations, mystery, intrigue and power plays. And yet, I was left feeling rather underwhelmed for the most part.

I enjoyed the writing; it was easy to read and descriptive and contemporary and it wasn't difficult to devour large chunks of the book quickly. However the world building was just too slow and unclassified for me. At about the halfway point in the book I still had no idea about the world and I had so many unanswered questions. Even by the end of the book I just feel like there wasn't enough information put across for me to get a clear idea of the world I was in and the why's of everything. I have no doubt that the author had put thought into the world but it just didn't come across in the narrative.

The plot meanders a little around getting to know the main characters initially and then the assassination and the trials that the twins must go through to determine the successor to the throne. The court intrigue fell a little flat for me with far too many cliches and far too much predictability. What was more interesting however were the intimations of something 'other', some other force just outside of the Castle walls and a far bigger scenario at play. As I said, the world building is severely lacking for me, so I'm not sure of WHY there is this other force or WHAT they even are but they are there.

I liked the characters but there was no one that I really loved. I enjoyed the theme of family and loyalty and betrayal being the central focus rather than a romance however I was also inevitably frustrated when someone was so easily able to estrange such a supposedly profound and strong relationship. I enjoyed the alliances that Carys seemed to make throughout the book and she was probably my favourite character because, as well as being a sucker for YA fantasies, I also have a soft spot for strong female characters and while she isn't a heroine that I am going to rave about and insist that everyone should read about, she was strong and fierce in her own way.

Something I did like was the way that the book broaches issues like chronic illness and addiction. They were not really a focal point but I liked that there was a small representation there.

There's some technology relying mostly on wind power providing at the very least lights to the castle and to it's city. Again, another world building issue here that I had would be the reconciling of having electricity and yet the apparent use for it was for lights and yet no other technologies seemed to emerge... I would have like a bit of further explanation about this.

I think that's my main problem with most of the book - I just wanted more explanation. I wanted to know what the history was, why the royals were how they were, how does this world work, who the Xhelozi were and why they hunt the people of Eden. Is that just who they are or what they do? Or is there more to this story?

With a hint of magic and hopefully more detailed explanations to come I'll probably go ahead with the sequel because, as previously mentioned, I'm a sucker for YA fantasies and while this didn't wow me I'm interested to see where the author is going with this one and I believe it's a duology so one way or another the next book would give me closure.

. . . the getting of power is often the easy part. It is keeping it that can prove difficult