Review: Prisoner of the Elements by Zian Schafer

The author generously provided me with an ARC in exchange for this impartial review.

Schafer is an extraordinarily talented writer. Her prose is beautiful and emotionally evocative. She has a gift for summoning the emotion a reader needs to feel in a particular scene, which is especially valuable in fantasy. This quality of her writing made the world and characters feel extremely real.

I rarely read fantasy-heavy romance, and this sort of sexually-charged story particularly tends not to be for me. However, Schafer’s writing was so evocative that the intimate scenes carried a charge that made them compelling even for a reader that doesn’t tend to enjoy the explicitly erotic. The downside, though, is that the two main male characters are hard to tell apart. Evander and Auberon are both much more powerful than Althea, they both behave coercively and sometimes abusively towards her, and they’re both quite controlling. The darkness of the relationships was well-done, but the similarity of them made it difficult to get invested in either.

The pacing was one area where I felt the book lacked development. Plot elements were often introduced and then resolved within a few pages, rather than ideas and subplots being developed more gradually. This contributed to a larger sense of choppiness within the book, which was also a consequence of the limited on-the-page worldbuilding. I could tell that Schafer had created a rich and well-developed world, but as a reader I was not given nearly enough information about this world’s history or magic to understand it. Since I really value worldbuilding as a reader, this was a disappointment. There was clearly an interesting world there, I just didn’t get much access to it.

This is a minor nitpick, but I really wished the chapter titles had not included epigraphs from famous real-world texts like Animal Farm or the Satyricon. I found this broke the immersion in the story for me, since those books wouldn’t exist in Althea’s world.

I know I’ve expressed a lot of quibbles, but the writing in this book is really phenomenal. If you like fantasy romance, I strongly recommend picking it up. Even if, like me, it’s not really for you, it still might be worth a read! I’ll definitely be looking for more work from Schafer.

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