Author: Margaret Rogerson
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Audiobook Length: 8 hours 45 minute
Isobel is an artistic prodigy with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.
Furious, Rook spirits her away to his kingdom to stand trial for her crime. But something is seriously wrong in his world, and they are attacked from every side. With Isobel and Rook depending on each other for survival, their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.
Margaret Rogerson recently came back on my radar as I have seen a lot of hype for her newest release, Vespertine. Before trying the new novel, I wanted to read her earlier novels. I had it between An Enchantment of Ravens and A Sorcery of Thorns, and decided to read the earlier release first. This a standalone fantasy about Isobel, a portrait artist, who specializes in painting the fair folk. She lives in a village called Whimsy near a forest full of fae and paints portraits in exchange for enchantments. One day the autumn fae prince, Rook, comes to get a portrait done and things do not go well for Isobel after she paints human sadness in his eyes.
The initial meeting between Rook and Isobel was very sweet. Through their interactions, it was greatly enjoyable to get to know Rook. He has a great wit to his character along with a ting of humanity beneath his fae exterior. The fae in this novel are unique as they use glamor to alter their appearances to hide their darker interiors. It was a very interesting take on fae. Isobel’s painting of Rook could cost him his throne, so he whisks Isobel away on a journey to his kingdom to put her on trial. Their romance begins, as I read it, with an instant attraction and curiosity that builds to an insta-love perpetuated by forced proximity as the two travel together. Since the two come from completely different worlds, there is a learning curve for each of them as they try to navigate their similarities and differences.
The pacing and final product of this novel was not quite my style, but the potential within the material was definitely there and I enjoyed different aspects within the writing. The world building in this novel is interesting as the world itself was written with a lot of detail. It was easy to picture the scenery and characters. The portion that I wish was expanded on a little more was the history and “rules” of the world. There is a lot of exploration into the relationship between the fae and humans as the two interact more in this novel compared to other novels. The fae world is darker compared some other novels and is illustrated through the side characters, rather than through Rook. There is Gadfy, Isobel’s frequent patron and his niece, Lark, that help illustrate this dynamic.
Overall, the plot itself initially seems to be about Rook’s painting, however, it does expand to be larger dangers within the world of the fae, including the Alder King. This character I would have loved to have more as I do not feel connected to him as a potential villain. For me, it was a bit of telling rather than showing. For me, the set-up of the story is what puts me on the fence, as there is a lot to love about this novel, but I just feel I am left with a lot more questions than I usually have after finishing a book. While I may never figure out these answers, I do enjoy the general writing of the author and will be interested in trying out her other novels.