It is with pleasure that I participate in another book tour with Storytellers on Tour for you all today. As a part of this book blitz (more information can be found on the Storytellers On Tour site) I will be showing off this absolutely gorgeous cover and sharing my thoughts on the book itself. So stay tuned as we take a dive into A Sea of Pearls & Leaves by Rosalyn Briar!
Princess Ingrid of Norella Isle does not want to get married. So, her priestess girlfriend, Lilura, devises a wicked plot to deter suitors with a nearly impossible marriage contract: should Ingrid die first, her husband must be buried at sea beside her.
The plan backfires when all seven suitors agree, and the king announces a competition for Ingrid’s hand. Ingrid must keep her head above water as she deals with the suitors, a jealous girlfriend, and the news of two murdered priestesses.
As the suitors are eliminated, one man stands out: the quirky and anxious Prince Soren who charms both Ingrid and Lilura.
When Lilura goes missing, Ingrid and Soren must piece together who has murdered the priestesses and why before it’s too late.
CW: This novel contains violence, sexual situations, and adult language.
A SEA OF PEARLS & LEAVES BY ROSALYN BRIAR
PUBLISHED: December 1, 2020
GENRE: Dark Fantasy, Romance
AGE GROUP: Adult
PAGES: 275 (Print Length)
Rosalyn Briar is a former teacher who is married to her high school sweetheart. Together, they have built a beautiful life and have two fearless daughters. Rosalyn is obsessed with gothic fairy tales, scary movies, sun dresses, traveling, and reading books. She is the published author of The Crown of Bones and A Sea of Pearls & Leaves, both of which are fairy tale retellings. Rosalyn is also the host of #NovelBuilding, a daily Twitter question with monthly themes for fellow writers to connect. When Rosalyn isn’t writing or reading, you can find her playing dress up with her two princesses or exploring the woods for wildflowers.
A Sea of Pearls & Leaves is first and foremost a retelling—a retelling of a rather more obscure fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm called The Three Sneak-Leaves. This alone was enough to capture my attention. While there are quite a few retellings out there, this was the first I had seen that touched upon this particular tale!
Ingrid is our heroine and the solitary heir to her kingdom’s throne. Her kingdom, Norella, is in need of an heir, and it falls to Ingrid to secure a husband and fulfill her duty as queen. There is only one problem—Ingrid is in love with a passionate pink-haired sorceress, Lilura. When the King contrives a plan to invite suitors to their land for a ball in honor of Princess Ingrid’s 21st birthday, Ingrid and Lilura plot to throw a wrench in the workings. Utilizing obscure laws that give Ingrid control over who she marries, they write a marriage contract that they are sure no man will agree to.
Surprised by the response of all seven suitors, a competition is held to see who can meet all of Ingrid’s demands. While the courtships unfold, and Ingrid begins to believe she could have feelings for a Prince, intrigue and murder unfurl around them. Lilura and Ingrid must navigate the complexities of their love while trying to save their beloved home. They must discover if their love transcends hardship and if their relationship can survive the trial of marriage.
The premise of this book is genuinely inventive. The world that Ms. Briar created is unique and captivating even when constrained by the original material. There were several elements of the story that I thought were quite lovely, for instance the mythology of the world and the ritual and ceremony carried out by the priestesses. The world-building is solid, and while I felt that more time could have been spent fleshing out the character of the world, I enjoyed my time spent within it.
The characters were not very likable to me out of the gate. It took me quite a while to warm up to Ingrid and Lilura, which was a bit of a problem for me as I tend to find characters extremely important to me as a reader. It was difficult to care about their relationship because we were dropped into an already existing romance. There was a fair amount of conflict out of the gate created by minor misunderstandings and quibbles that are explained later (and that do make sense). Still, it would have benefited me to have been given more information a bit earlier. This type of withholding of information didn’t build tension for me as much as leave me confused as to why characters were behaving in the ways in which they were behaving.
Overall, while I enjoyed the plot, and it did have a fast pace (I easily finished this book in one day), I felt that major plot events were rushed. The narrative style relied too heavily on briefly telling the reader the course of events without creating an immersive experience. At times, key plot points felt a bit convenient or even contrived as a way to propel the plot forward. Descriptive passages could be sparse at times. The story is told from the first-person perspective of our three main protagonists. Still, despite this perspective, there was a lack of depth of interiority that could have been aided through more expansive description and engagement with each of the plot beats.
I did ultimately wind up enjoying the romance aspect of this novel, though this, too, brought up a few niggling issues for me. CAUTION! SPOILERS AHEAD! I thought that the triad aspect that unfolded between Ingrid, Lilura, and Soren was fairly carefully executed. In the beginning, the wlw relationship was fine, though not very fleshed out. Mention of sex and desire was made, but there was not much building of romantic tension here for me. As I have already mentioned, part of the issue resulted from dropping us into the middle of an already established “off-screen” relationship.
Problems arose in the contrast to time spent with the male love interest. More time was spent building up that new relationship and even giving much more detailed descriptions of their sexual encounter. It is much easier to build romantic tension and create excitement around sex scenes in building a new romance, and I do think this sets up an imbalance in their narrative weight. At times, I felt that the narrative favored the heterosexual presenting relationship over the wlw relationship, and even at the expense of the female love interest, which ultimately was a downer for me. Yet, I think all three characters came together in the end, even if the culmination in marriage fell flat for me.
Taken as a whole, this was a pleasant read. Many moments had me smiling as I read, and I did become invested in this world and the relationships that were forged. While my honest rating of this novel is three-stars, I think people who enjoy unconventional retellings of a perhaps not-so-well-known fairy tale will enjoy A Sea of Pearls & Leaves.
As a part of this book blitz, Storytellers on Tour and the author, Rosalyn Briar, are hosting a GIVEAWAY! Be sure to enter for your chance to win a signed copy of A Sea of Pearls and Leaves!
Prize: One (1) signed paperback – US Only.
Starts: February 12th, 2021 at 12:00am EST
Ends: February 14th, 2021 at 11:59pm EST
Click through to the RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY to submit your entries. May the odds be ever in your favor!