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Book Review: Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard

by Amanda Starks 8 months ago in review
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A true young adult epic fantasy

  • Recommended Age: 14+
  • Content Warnings: Some intense blood and gore
  • Rating: 4.5/5 stars

No worries! This is a non-spoiler review!

First, My History with Aveyard's Books

It's been a hot minute since I last read a Victoria Aveyard book. Her debut novel: Red Queen, and subsequent sequels made it to many top charts in the YA genre from 2015 to 2018, including #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers list. With it's far reach and well-marketed media presence it made a large, dedicated loyal fan-base you can still find active today.

However popular it was, I could not finish Red Queen when I first picked it up in 2016. At the time it felt too formulaic; too familiar to other YA fantasy books I had already read. Even when the plot introduced the Red Army, all I could do was sigh in disappointment. The writing itself was fine, maybe even good, but the plot and characters felt too predictable and overdone. But, I still wanted to give Aveyard another chance, so I waited for a new book to come out.

Realm Breaker: First Impressions

“Hammer and nail, the Companions are now seven, wind and gail, bound for hell or bound for heaven.”― Victoria Aveyard, Realm Breaker

Realm Breaker was a fat, eye-catching novel that came into my hands a few months after I started my position at a local library in 2021. I pretty much salivated over it, excited and overjoyed that Aveyard had gone into the epic fantasy genre for this new project, and had not held back on the word count. As one of my favorite sub-genres of fantasy, I was curious how Aveyard's world-building ( which had been one highlight of Red Queen ) would take root.

And it was with explosive delight that I read the opening chapter, finding myself swept away into a truly epic tale and a world that felt akin to the works of Tolkien ( Lord of the Rings ), Cinda Williams Chima ( Seven Realms Series ), and Christopher Paolini ( The Inheritance Cycle ).

Right away Aveyard promised an action-packed, magic-filled tale about the meaning of heroism, sacrifice, and the struggles of finding a place to belong. Nowhere to be seen were the flamboyant, cookie-cutter romances or trope shackled characters that plague many YA fantasy novels today. She wrote masterfully crafted, diverse characters with real flaws and inner struggles, and an impressive epic fantasy world that felt like a true lived-in universe.

Despite the length and density of the novel, I never felt the pace was lacking. Every chapter served a purpose. Even in times when a chapter focused on a character's inner thoughts or development, Aveyard managed to weave the plot into every seam. It set a quick pace that managed not to feel rushed. From scenes of a bloody battle to court intrigue to fighting off otherworldly monsters; Aveyard kept her story tightly bound without an ounce of frayed ends.

Likes and Dislikes

One detail that I really liked was the different ages of the characters. Too often are the teen protagonists left alone with their choices, and it gives off the impression that being a teen = freedom, and that being any older means you're either a mentor, a villain, a bad parent, or a dead parent. In fact, several main characters are in their 30's, which helps the world and the personalities of those characters feel more realistic. It's wonderful to see other younger adults represented in such a way that makes them relatable to teens and lets them know that life continues to be awesome after you're no longer considered a teen.

Then there were the multiple points of view. I truly did not expect this many POVs to be in one novel. It's rare to see because it is very hard to pull off without it feeling jarring or boring. At times I liked it, especially when we went into the minds of questionable antagonists. However, there were chapters where Aveyard would dive into a side character's perspective, and I was left wanting.

After Thoughts

“This is the best way out of here. To the horizon and beyond it. To whoever I am, in my bones.”― Victoria Aveyard, Realm Breaker

After I finished the novel and sat with it for a while, I realized that I had just read possibly one of the best representations of teen characters in a YA fantasy. Never did the protagonist, a teen girl by the name of Corayne an-Amarat, ever feel like an "adult" in a teen's body. She was thrust into the plot and the wider world without preparation or warning, much like many teens experience entering adulthood. She makes it clear that the unexpected journey is what she wants, but it's never far from her or the reader's mind that she has no idea what she is doing and is properly and understandably terrified of the responsibility she has.

As for the other teen characters-particularly, that of the squire Andry Trelland who fits the role of the well-raised, loyal companion-they too feel unique, each with their own struggles and imperfections. It felt, much to my amazement, like peering into the window and seeing my teen self again.

It was also refreshing to read a YA fantasy without any complicated romantic sub-plots. Romantic interests between the main characters was handled really well and felt natural instead of rushed or forced.

If you are a fan of epic fantasy with dense worldbuilding, morally grey characters, swashbuckling adventure and the occasional witty banter, then I highly recommend Realm Breaker to you!

If you found this review helpful, informative or simply interesting, then give this article a like or hit subscribe on my profile! I will be coming out with more book reviews focused on young adult and adult fantasy, so if you're wanting to see more, let me know!

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About the author

Amanda Starks

Book hoarder, fantasy author, gaming goblin. I am currently working on my debut novel, CASTLING. Follow me on Twitter @Amanda_Starkes and subscribe to my email list at amandastarks.com to keep up with the madness!

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