Ever the Brave by Erin Summerhill

Released on December 4, 2018, Ever the Brave by Erin Summerhill is the riveting sequel to the romantic fantasy adventure Ever the Hunted. It promises to appeal audiences who enjoy fantasy, themes of good versus evil, and romantic conflicts.

After saving King Aodren with her newfound Channeler powers, Britta dreams of a peaceful life in her childhood home with Cohen. But her powers created an accidental tether between Britta and Aodren, a bond she cannot sever that is pulling her away from the man she loves. Cohen’s only desire is to protect Britta from harm. But how can he do that when his hunt for the Channeler responsible for controlling the king prevents him from staying by Britta’s side? Aodren has spent a year in the thrall of a manipulative Channeler and must now focus on leading Malam out of the darkness, even though he can’t stop thinking about Britta and the bond that draws them together. As Britta, Cohen, and Aodren face the sinister forces that threaten Malam from within and without, Britta learns that there are those who would use her power for evil designs. If she cannot find a way to harness her magical ability, her life-as well as her country-may be lost. The stakes are higher than ever as Britta fights to protect her kingdom and her heart in this thrilling fantasy adventure.

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While I quite enjoyed Ever the Hunted, Ever the Brave just didn’t quite live up to expectations. As promised, here was fantasy, there were explosive battles, and there was romance. However, I finished that book feeling unsatisfied – though not disappointed.

King Aodren, Britta, and Cohen once again feature as main characters in this tale, though this time they are joined by the Archtraitor’s Daughter, Lirra. Britta and Cohen are already well-established characters, with equally well-fleshed out backstories and a powerful relationship. Aodren, for his part, is a desperate and lonely, young king, searching for a way to dismantle his father’s dark legacy. He seeks comfort and companionship in his saviour, Britta, with whom he now shares a powerful connection. Together, they try to unravel the puzzle surrounding Aodren’s possession and Britta’s mother, edging closer and closer to danger – and each other – as they do so. Lirra, for her part, has grown up in the shadow of her father’s betrayal, a girl with the power to control the wind, torn between duty to her father and the desire to follow her dreams – no matter where they take her. In this story, she finds herself paired with Cohen as they search for kidnapped Channeler’s – and Lirra’s best friend. I really enjoyed reading about all of the characters as individuals – unfortunately, it was their relationships with one another that really soured this tale for me.

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In terms of romance, this was perhaps my main disappointment. Here, Summerhill dangled a far more – no, two far more – intriguing romances before the readers, with absolutely no pay-out. Now, I am normally not a fan of love triangles, or squares, or whatever, but Britta and Cohen’s relationship is so dull I simply cannot bring myself to care about it. One thing that did not change was my opinion of Britta and Cohen has a couple. My problem is this, most of Cohen and Britta’s love story all happened off-screen. I did not get to watch them fall in love. They simply were already in love by the time I met them in the first book. It was written as though it was a fact. It was not a journey, but a presentation of information that didn’t inspire much passion. Honestly, I found myself rooting for Aodren as he tried to win Britta’s affections. Furthermore, in contrast to Cohen who kept making choices for Britta, without telling her everything she needed to know, Aodren respected Britta’s independence and her right know, her right to decide for herself. Honestly, Britta and Cohen’s relationship was just overall disappointing in this one, and I couldn’t stop myself from pining for something more.

Despite this, one relationship did stand out as a positive for me – the friendship between Britta and Gillian. Gillian was an excellent friend to Britta as well, which she certainly needed with all that was going on around her. As they say, you don’t need a lot of friends just a good one. I do wish they had had more conversations that weren’t centered about Cohen, Aodren, Leif (or more than one of these men), but I honestly enjoyed their sweet, heartfelt interactions and the genuine friendship blossoming between them.

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Finally, my biggest issue with this one had to be the writing – in particular the world-building (or lack thereof) and the pacing of the plot. Summerhill seemed to be leaning heavily on the world-building the established in Ever the Hunted, because not much additional explorations were undergone in Ever the Brave, even as Channeler magic became more central to the plot. First, the world-building –  unfortunately the magic system was kind of disappointing since Britta and her friends don’t know much about magic. This means that the reader only gets a small amount of information about magic, and much of the information provided is threadbare at best. This left the world building lacking but what I did learn about the magic was interesting – just enough to leave me pining for more. Secondly, despite Ever the Brave having more action than Ever the Hunted, the writing and the pace weren’t as gripping as I would have expected – or liked. This can be attributed to poor pacing, which jumped from sleepy storytelling to full-fledged action on the same page, then back again, seeming to build towards a climax erratically and without real direction.

Overall, I was hoping Ever the Brave would be more (or equally) engaging since the world and characters were already established, but sadly it just didn’t work for me – likely as a result of unsatisfying relationships, threadbare world-building, and a poorly-paced plot (2.5/5).

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