The Emperor’s Arrow by Lauren D.M. Smith
Released: July 18, 2016
Reviewed by Mandi
When I saw that this debut author was the winner of the 2015 So You Think You Can Write contest sponsored by Harlequin, I was excited to try it. I also love to try fantasy romance and this one seemed to fit the bill. I initially loved the world and the heroine – but by the end of the book, I had many frustrations.
Evony is our heroine and she is an Amazzi warrior. She comes from a land full of warriors and she is very skilled at combat and an amazing archer. Wanting to provide children to her people, she is on the hunt for a stud — she isn’t too concerned about finding a lifemate, as long as she can find a man who is both physically and mentally approved to give her a healthy child.
Everyone in the world is loyal to the mighty Emperor Galen. He has conquered all lands and tales are told about how power-mad he is and how beastly his nature can be. With this knowledge and gossip floating through her mind, Evony is summoned by the Emperor, as is one woman from every land, to go through a series of tests – after which, Galen will choose his bride. It’s like a fantasy version of the television show, The Bachelor. Galen does need a bride, but he is also searching for those who want to rebel against him.
Evony arrives along with all the other women and immediately gets put to her first test – they have one hour to find an object that best represents what an empress should be. The field is then narrowed to twenty…contestants… and the story goes on from here. More tests for the women, both physical and theory and Evony finally meets the brutal, scary Galen who actually turns out to be a lovely gentleman. I think it would have been more fun if Galen did posses a more big and scary personality at first – to see how Evony handled him. But he is actually quite calm and sometimes I forgot he is the man who conquered the entire world.
At first, I loved Evony. She is bad ass, kick ass – any type of ass you can think off. She is a warrior and she is mature and level-headed and I thought she would start as a great foe/partner to the fierce Galen. But as the story progresses, Evony excels at everything. Every test – whether physical or mental, she has answers for. I wanted her to succeed, obviously, but she had zero faults. So it made the competition with the other women null and void, because she was obviously the clear winner from the start. She had to remind people all the time that she was an Amazzi warrior, if they ever threw doubt her way. Another frustration is that I got a little bored by the competition. It just didn’t go anywhere. Evony would always be superior and the story would go in a circle around this theme.
My biggest frustration though is the romance. Quite quickly, Galen realizes that Evony can be a big asset to him, and smartly so. He wants to get to the bottom of why his sister was killed. He brought in a girl from each noble family to see if he could “smoke out those who plotted against him, as well as give him leverage against them.” He notices how smart and capable Evony is and asks her to be his eyes and ears around the other women when he can’t be there. She felt like an adviser to him, and then they start making out. It felt awkward to me. This is only told in Evony’s point of view so I don’t know the intimate thoughts Galen was having, but Evony was not having very intimate thoughts about him. There chemistry was great as adviser/advisee, but not great as romantic lovers. There was no sexual tension and even when the “I love you” came it didn’t feel right at all.
If the romance had been really strong – I think I could have let the other stuff that bothered me go.
So yes, I’ve dumped on this one a bit but at the same time, that foundation for a fun fantasy is there. The world is there, and Evony had a chance to be a really cool heroine. It just missed the mark for me.