“Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.
As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what’s right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved.
Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen. For fans of Graceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance. ” (via Goodreads)
Most of dramatic conflict revolves around Branwen. She impulsively makes some major decisions that have vast and dangerous repercussions then must do everything in her power to keep things from getting worse. Spoilers: she doesn’t and they do. Branwen could also solve a lot of her problems if she just talked to Tristan. She keeps a preposterous amount of secrets, many for reasons I’m still a little fuzzy on. But that’s also true to her personality. As a lady’s maid, she’s used to maneuvering in the background while others steal the limelight. Her whole life is dedicated to securing the future of Iveriu by protecting Princess Eseult, more so when the magic in her blood manifests itself. Sometimes defending the crown requires a lie or two. Essy may not like it, but ultimately Branny’s concerns are bigger than her cousin’s mercurial moods.
As much as this story is based on the many iterations of the Celtic legend turned Anglo-Norman story, you don’t need to know any of it to understand Pérez’s version. It’s a loose interpretation, with Branwen taking some of Iseult’s roles from the legends. And since Sweet Black Waves is only the first in a trilogy, most of the action Celtic nerds are expecting has yet to happen. Speaking of which, we have to talk about that cliffhanger. Pérez picked the worst/best place to end her novel. It’s like she set off an explosion and ended the book right when the bomb goes off. I was expecting the scene itself to be a gut-punch, but then to have it just stop was hard to take. In a good way. I’m a fan of abrupt endings, so it worked for me. Just be prepared…
To read the rest of my review of Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pérez, head over to Tor.com.
Getting tipsy in Essy’s chambers when they were supposed to be studying one of the great Ivernic love stories for their lessons with the royal tutor seemed a small crime by comparison.
Branwen pulled the waterskin away from her mouth, and her eyes flicked once more to the tumultuous waves below.
They called to her. Strange how much she could love the dark depths that carried destruction to her kingdom. In ancient times, so the bards sang, the island of Iveriu was invaded five times, and now the kingdom of Kernyv threatened to do it again.
Fire and sea and fighting men.
Branwen suspected peace was a dream as broken and elusive as her own, a puzzle from which key pieces had been stolen. She gave her head a small shake, the wine burning her throat nicely.
At the center of her fragmented dreams was love. Always love. A pair of lovers intertwined until they shared the same heart; their faces blackened, ashen. The tide pulled them out into the Ivernic Sea. They loved while they burned and they burned while they loved. And always, always their arms reached for Branwen.
Thanks to Imprint for sending me a review copy.
Do the world a favor and buy this book from your local indie bookstore or borrow it from your public library.