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A Kingdom of Exiles – S. B. Nova

There are three things I loved about A Kingdom of Exiles that have stuck with me even though it’s been months since I read it. 

Here’s the blurb

The brightest of stars are always born on the darkest of nights.

Serena Smith is unusual.

Growing up in a backwoods village, her life is lonely and dull. Then, on her eighteenth birthday, she’s gifted a magical heirloom only to be snatched by fae and condemned to a lifetime in chains.

Dragged to Aldar, a fae kingdom ruled by a tyrant witch, Serena discovers a forbidden love, and meets fellow outcasts, each with their own dark secrets.

As the lives of warriors, rebels, and witches clash, they find a shared destiny. For only together, and with Serena’s unique gifts, can they survive long enough to build the flames of a revolution. Only together can they go to war …

Firstly, A Kingdom of Exiles is a story about an ordinary girl. She’s not kickass, she doesn’t have hidden talents that make her better than everyone else.

Serena is thrown out of her village for being strange and different, and she’s taken to a fairy training camp where again she is strange and different. She’s weaker than the other recruits and behind on her training, she doesn’t automatically succeed and she doesn’t automatically have the maturity to present herself as a leader or strategist either. She has to work for every inch of respect she’s given, and she does.

Secondly, this is a story about found family.

Serena in and of herself is nothing special, but the way she treats others and the bonds she forms with them leads her to develop strong relationships, and these friendships are what see her through. It reminds me a bit of Buffy. Even though Buffy is the Slayer, the reason she survives when others don’t is because she isn’t fighting alone. There’s nothing quite like the warmth that washes through you when you realise that your friends have got your back. This book is that feeling in a bottle.

Third, I really loved the writing style. While there were a few gripes (like repetition of present participles and certain turns of phrase), the book’s prose was beautiful. It balanced humour, dialogue and description in a way that made me envious of the authors’ skill.

This is a very long book, and usually I find those super intimidating. Especially when it means learning a ton of place names and new cultures. But A Kingdom of Exiles was accessible and easy to get into. The new information was delivered in a way that wasn’t overwhelming at all.

I believe that it’s indie published, and one of the things that I love about indie books is how they often break the “rules”. A large part of this book explores Serena’s ordinary life before she’s taken away to the fairies. Pages are spent getting to know Serena’s friends and relations back home. Many editors may consider this a waste of space, but having that history made me really feel the transition to the new life and sympathise with Selena’s sense of loss. (It also made me reconsider some things in my own writing!)

I also appreciate how indie authors feel they have more freedom to balance dark and light. There are some dark themes, and some quite explicit scenes. But there are also sweet, warm, fuzzy scenes that just put me in a good mood. I liked the fact that I couldn’t guess what was coming – the absolute worst could happen. The absolute best could happen too.

Reading this novel was a bit like how flying’s described within its pages. It was exhilarating at times, terrifying at times, incredibly beautiful at times, and a leap of faith. In this case the leap paid off.

I really can’t wait for the next novel in the series and find myself constantly thinking of the characters and checking back to see if the next book is out yet.

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