Please note that this review may contain spoilers for its prequel, The Winter People. You can read my review of this novel [here].
The Summer Marked was written by Rebekah L Purdy and is due for release later this month. It’s a fantasy novel set in the war torn world of Faerie and is the sequel to the 2014 paranormal romance, The Winter People. Although it’s not clear how many novels there are going to be in this series at this time, the end of The Summer Marked certainly implies that at least one more will follow.
When Salome followed Gareth to Faerie, she though that she was heading to her happily-ever-after. However, she soon finds that she’s in the middle of a war that has been raging for centuries. Grisselle, the Winter Queen, has already crushed the kingdoms of Spring and Autumn. She now has her sights on Summer – Nevin’s kingdom – and seems like it won’t be long before she overpowers him.
When Salome shows some aptitude for magic, she and Gareth are summoned to Summer. It is there that Nevin reveals his plans for Salome. Although he promised her to Gareth, he has since changed his mind. It is clear that Salome possesses some kind of unique power and deems it best for all of Faerie if he takes her as his queen. Trapped between her heart and sense of duty, Salome must make a difficult choice – one that could separate her from Gareth from her forever.
Meanwhile, Kadie has also found her way to Faerie. Tricked by two Fae – Teodor and Etienne – she is captured and brought to Grisselle’s castle. The Winter Queen believes that she has information about Salome, Gareth and Nevin – things that would be vital in her mission to take Summer – but Kadie can’t bring herself to betray her best friend. Yet as days pass and she’s subjected to horrific suffering, she begins to doubt her resolve. Is Salome’s safety really worth more than her own?
Before I begin, I feel that I should just say that The Summer Marked is a very different kind of story to The Winter People. While the previous book in this series was a pretty typical YA/NA paranormal romance, The Summer Marked is a lot more of a high fantasy story with romantic themes. It is also a lot more violent than the previous novel with some scenes of torture and gore. Please bear that in mind before start reading this story.
If you followed this blog last September, you may remember that I actually quite enjoyed The Winter People as it was the first paranormal romance story that I read which I didn’t hate. Although it wasn’t perfect, it was still an enjoyable mystery story which did well to show off the dual nature of the Fae through its use of the wintery themes (beautiful and deadly). Unfortunately, I didn’t think that The Summer Marked was anywhere near as strong. While it was very well written and did at least manage to ditch the love quadrangle, it still fell into some of its precursor’s traps while, at the same time, leaving itself open to a set of entirely new ones.
Salome’s half of the story was just underwhelming. This time around, there wasn’t really any sense of mystery. In The Winter People, she spent the entire novel slowly learning about her curse and trying to find out how she could break it. This time around, the prologue pretty much revealed everything we needed to know about her. This flashback very heavily-handedly reveals that Salome is destined to be the Queen of all of Faerie, yet it still takes Salome the entire novel to come to this conclusion herself.
Although the story had a strong opening, with Grisselle attacking Salome and forcing her and Gareth to flee through the dangerous forest, it became increasingly repetitive once they reach Summer. This section was characterised by balls and feasts and certain Fae nobles showing distaste as they are being forced to treat a Human as their equal. Salome struggles through the chapters, torn internally between her love and her duty but whenever any kind of action breaks out, she’s sent straight to her room. I was frustrated with the last novel because characters kept hiding the truth from Salome for no good reason. This time it’s even worse. They’re not just hiding things they know. They’re expressively stopping Salome from having any kind of physical stake in the plot.
And let’s talk about Salome’s emotional conflict for a moment. One of my favourite things about the last novel was the relationship between Salome and Gareth. I was so happy that they ended up together when I read that novel as it was always clear that he genuinely loved her. The novel gave her a happily-ever-after and I wish it’d just stayed there. The drama just made me frustrated more than sad for Salome. If Nevin couldn’t keep his promise – a promise made because Salome saved his miserable life – then what was the point of the last story at all? Really, this would be as if New Moon ignored all of the development between Edward and Bella and instead forced her (unwillingly) into a relationship with Jacob. And just how does magic work in this world. It’s stronger if you’re married, even if you have no feelings towards the person you’re married to? What kind of sense does that make? And if this is the case, why is the unmarried Winter Queen such a threat?
Anyway, deep breaths. Perhaps I should talk about the things I liked about the story for a while. Kadie’s character development and story in this novel were both excellent. Her experiences in the Court of Winter were dark and frightening. In The Winter People, Purdy used winter alone to show the difference between seelie and unseelie. This time, the contrast between Gisselle’s palace of bones and Nevin’s kingdom of eternal light capture the same thing. Gisselle’s palace was so grotesque and frightening, showing clearly how brutally she disposed of people who upset her. I looked forward to reading these chapters far more because I was worried about her safety.
Unlike Salome, Kadie wasn’t a Mary Sue. The handsome men didn’t flock to protect her and she wasn’t in possession of all the magic in the world. While Salome was weak and easily led, generally just doing whatever the male characters asked her to do, Kadie showed some backbone and was forced to work hard to survive. Her behaviour in the novel was perfectly understandable given her situation and I loved the way that her attitude gradually darkened throughout the story as she started doing questionable things in order to survive. I loved her relationship with Etienne too and really hope this will be further developed in future novels.
However, beyond Salome and Kadie, the female characters in this story seemed to suffer a little. Most of the development of the secondary cast went to the male characters, particularly Nevin, Etienne and Darach. Most of the female characters in the story were either left undeveloped or were just evil. It’s a real shame that the gentlemen hog the spotlight. It would have been lovely to see more development for Gwenn, Rena or some of the other background ladies.
Well, time to wrap this review up. While The Winter People is one of my favourite paranormal romance stories, I unfortunately didn’t rate this one as highly. While I enjoyed Kadie’s side of the story, Salome’s always felt lacking. She’s just not a very strong character and I just found the direction that her story arc took deeply unsatisfying. I’m still curious where this story will go but I’m no longer quite as excited to find out as I once was.
The Summer Marked is due for release on the 22nd September and is currently available to pre-order on Amazon.co.uk