Review: “Dark Emerald” by T.L. Thorne

I am probably not the ideal reviewer for this book–it falls pretty squarely into a fantasy romance genre, and I prefer for romance to take a backseat in the books I read. Nonetheless, the author generously sent me an ARC, so I’ve given it my best shot!

I really liked the psychological focus of this novel. Ayvre is not intended to be a likable character, necessarily, but I appreciate the focus on how her thoughts evolve throughout the book. I also liked the dark themes, which I thought were explored responsibly (and the scene where Ayvre takes her revenge was a standout in the book for me, for its viscerally clear writing and thrilling sense of justice). Other characters, especially Song, were really well-depicted.

The plot, on the other hand, was less engaging. I think the biggest challenge for me was that it wasn’t driven by the character’s actions or choices for the most part. Ayvre is a very interesting character that I enjoyed getting to know, but the things that happen to her seem to just happen (like getting kidnapped and held in a dungeon for months, for example). I definitely understand the desire to explore these themes of disempowerment, and for the most part this depiction was well-done, but it did stop the plot from feeling concisely constructed rather than just a series of events. Furthermore, much of the plot is about stagnation, Ayvre being held in prison, and frankly not much happens for a large chunk of the book.

I liked the worldbuilding, though I wanted to see more of the world explored. The best fantasy novels have the sense that the whole world exists, even if readers haven’t been told about it yet, and that doesn’t come across here. Rather, it feels that bits of worldbuilding are dropped in as we need them.

The writing style was inconsistent. Some passages were really lovely, especially the internal monologue. Others, especially some of the description and a lot of the dialogue, felt clunky. Another note is that this book needed some more editing. I don’t usually comment on this, especially with independently published books, but in this case some of the grammatical errors made sentences difficult to understand. At about the midpoint of the book, I felt like the description and writing really improved overall and became smoother and more enjoyable.

Thanks again to the author for the ARC!


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