Maera’s tagline—”A contemporary fantasy romance”—and cover do it a disservice. While Anya Wylde’s novel has a strong romantic throughline, there are many other elements to the novel, including fantasy, mythology, and a coming of age tale that would appeal to young adult readers. While a slow burn romance certainly builds within Meara’s pages, it takes a backseat over the course of the first two acts before building to a crescendo as the story moves towards its climax.
I would also say that the romance is one of the less successful elements in the story. While it includes many of the tropes romance fans enjoy as it tells an enemy to lovers story about protagonist Maera and the demigod Kamraan that, in isolation, is satisfying, its slow build before taking up a substantial proportion of the third act results in a narrative that feels uneven. It feels as though the fantasy adventure and romance are competing for space, rather than complementing each other. This is particularly glaring as, up until the book makes this transition, Maera does some absolutely wonderful things.
Before moving on to the bulk of the book (and all those wonderful things I mentioned), I’ll also touch upon the opening chapters, which felt a little awkward. As it introduces the reader to Maera, her (to the best of her knowledge) mundane life and her family, the elements don’t quite gel and feel as though they have been a little underwritten.
However, once it moves past these chapters and the story begins to take shape, Wylde introduces readers to a world filled with deep mythology that draws the reader in. The result is an absolutely delightful urban fantasy pulling from a variety of myths and legends, replete with supernatural beings taken from mythology. Whether they be gods and goddesses, or mythological creatures, the author has brought them into our world in a unique way that is engaging throughout. If you’re a mythology fan, you will be certain to love the way they are used throughout Meara.
Part of this success is thanks to the characterisation, which is consistently entertaining. While Maera is the protagonist and the point of view character throughout the novel and, by virtue of the romance, Kamraan is the primary supporting character, Maera is packed to the brim with supporting characters, all of whom shine. While Maera is a sizable 459 pages in paperback (and an estimated 487 pages on Kindle), there is only so much space you can allocate to these characters, and as a result, many of them don’t play a particularly large role. Yet, despite there being limited space dedicated to these characters, they are all well-defined characters who leave an impression on the reader. Maera is a standalone story, and while I don’t know if Wylde is intending on writing a sequel, if she were to expand this world with additional tales, it would be wonderful to see many of them pop up again.
The dialogue sparkles. Each character sounds unique, and the reader will generally be able to tell which character is speaking from the dialogue alone, without the need for the background text. The author has paid a great deal of attention to the characters’ backgrounds, including those from the same families, ensuring consistency between them, particularly given the different cultures and the huge age ranges. The dialogue also feels natural, adding to the believability in these characters’ presentation.
While I have mentioned the issues I have with the book’s opening, once it gets past these chapters, the prose shines. Wylde has imbued this with a great sense of humour that kept me chuckling along, yet doesn’t rely on this to keep the reader engaged. Her descriptions of Dublin are magical (and I don’t mean in the fantasy sense); it’s a living and breathing world that brings true majesty with it. The prose also transports the reader into the author’s magical realm (this time, very much in the fantasy sense), helping the readers discover this world with the protagonist. When needed, the book creates a sense of mystery, and tense moments lure the reader in a similar fashion to horror.
As much as I would have liked the editing to have picked up the early chapters not quite gelling with the rest of the book and the pacing issues that come with the romance’s integration into the larger tapestry, the book is largely well-edited. The result is a book that reads clearly and easily. However, while this may be limited to the review copy I read (though, it may be present in the final Kindle, and possibly paperback, versions), there were a number of instances where paragraphs were broken in the middle, which took me out of the book on occasion.
Maera is a thoroughly entertaining read that will appeal to fans of urban fantasy, young adult stories and romance. While more depth in the opening chapters and a greater blending between the romance elements and the rest of the book would have elevated the book, so much else works beautifully.
Gods, it seemed, felt deeply. So acute were their emotions that feelings became a torrent in their hearts and turned them into irrational, destructive beings.Meara: Legacy of Love, Chapter 30
Meara: Legacy of Love was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest review.
Meara is available in paperback and on Kindle, exclusive to Amazon).
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