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Review: The Heart of the Fae - Emma Hamm

Heart of the Fae by Emma Hamm
Series: The Otherworld #1
My rating: {★★★★☆}

Adult Fantasy Fairy Tale Retelling
Published November 26th 2017

Source: ARC received from Author
Beauty and the Beast meets Irish Mythology in this sweeping retelling of the beloved fairytale....

Once upon a time…

A plague sweeps across the emerald hills of Uí Néill, leaving a young midwife’s father with months to live. To save her people, Sorcha makes a deal with a dangerous Fae. She must travel across the sea, through merrow and kelpie lands, to find a forgotten king on a crumbling throne.

Born king of the Seelie Fae, Eamonn fought battles unnumbered to uphold honor, duty, and freedom… until his twin brother sank a blade between his shoulders. Crystals grew from the wound, splitting open skin and bone. His people banished him to a cursed isle for his disfigurement, now king of criminals and fools.

With the help of brownies, pixies, and will-o’-the-wisps, Sorcha battles to break through his crystalline shell and persuade him to take back his stolen throne.

This determined beauty could come dangerously close to stealing his beastly heart.

I buddy read this ARC with my #squad!! Please check out their reviews if you have a chance!

These ladies are the best buddy readers I could ever hope to read with! 

This is a very Irish and Scottish flavoured retelling of Beauty and the Beast and being full of mythical fantasy creatures including the Fae, boggarts and kelpies, this one is right up my alley!

I loved the world that Emma Hamm built and all the beautiful details that she included in the narrative which was third person in POVs from both the main characters.

Sorcha of Ui Neill lives with her adopted family being her foster father and her 'sisters'. Her father has contracted the horrific beetle plague that has ravished the human realm and Sorcha, a midwife and a healer, is desperate to find a cure to save her father and to save her people. Sorcha is a strong, unapologetic female character who is not afraid to fight for what she believes in and who will fight fiercely for those that she loves. She is already connected to the Fae in that she follows the 'old ways' as she was taught by her mother before she was burned at the stake for being a witch, and so when the human Guild fails her in helping her father, she turns to the faeries.

Eamonn is our 'Beast' and is an exiled Tuatha dé Danann, or High Fae with a very painful past. He has known betrayal and heartbreak and is as angry a character that I have ever seen. I definitely also caught some Mr Darcy vibes from him, especially during his initial interactions with Sorcha.

It's never easy to take a story that we've all heard before and add your own unique twists and spins - and yet Emma Hamm managed to create a beautiful and immersive world that you can't help but become involved in and while this definitely contains tropes that you've seen before - outcast girl supports her family and must journey away to save the world, outcast male with a questionable past must return to take his place in the world to save it - Emma manages to give these just enough of a twist and a uniqueness to keep things interesting.

The book for me was split into three parts defined as Sorcha's time in the human realms, Sorcha's journey to Hy-brasil and then Sorcha's time on Hy-brasil and in the realms of the fae. I actually struggled a little to reconcile the time in the human realms to the rest of the book although I did appreciate the time that Emma took to establish Sorcha and her motivations. The feminist vibe as a little over the top for my tastes - I'm all for feminism and I love strong, capable females but I just think that it was pushed on just a little too much, especially considering that to me it didn't play a major role in the story.

I really loved the Fae in this book - both the Seelie and Unseelie featured as well as all the 'lesser fae' and mythological creatures like brownies, pixies, merrows and kelpies and selkies. The Tuatha dé Danann or the 'high fae' were depicted as being perfectly impulsive and capricious with a disregard for the lives of the lesser humans and I loved seeing their slightly malevolent and mischievous natures.

There were a few things that I did struggle with while reading - mostly a pacing issue and the way that the passage of time was portrayed. I could see that while Sorcha was on the Island that a lot of time was meant to be passing, however it felt too short and rushed without enough details and fine points on the way the relationship and the romance between the two was developing and because of this I felt like the romance suffered and felt underdeveloped. A few more integral scenes could have really helped this along for me.

The one other detail that bothered me was the use of Fae names and the way that the faeries seemed so careless with them! If they are such a powerful weapon to be used against the Fae I would have thought that they could have guarded them more carefully and used nicknames with each other rather than their true names.

Besides those few issues, I really enjoyed reading this book and I'm thoroughly looking forward to where Emma will take us with the next book.

“I will not choose. I came here to save my people, my family. Not to become entangled in the faerie courts and their wars.”
“I don’t think you have a choice,” he said.