Havenfall by Sara Holland
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A safe haven between four realms. The girl sworn to protect it–at any cost.
Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects ancient worlds–each with their own magic–together. For generations, the inn has protected all who seek refuge within its walls, and any who disrupt the peace can never return.
For Maddie Morrow, summers at the inn are more than a chance to experience this magic first-hand. Havenfall is an escape from reality, where her mother sits on death row accused of murdering Maddie’s brother. It’s where Maddie fell in love with handsome Fiorden soldier Brekken. And it’s where one day she hopes to inherit the role of Innkeeper from her beloved uncle.
But this summer, the impossible happens–a dead body is found, shattering everything the inn stands for. With Brekken missing, her uncle gravely injured, and a dangerous creature on the loose, Maddie suddenly finds herself responsible for the safety of everyone in Havenfall. She’ll do anything to uncover the truth, even if it means working together with an alluring new staffer Taya, who seems to know more than she’s letting on. As dark secrets are revealed about the inn itself, one thing becomes clear to Maddie–no one can be trusted, and no one is safe . . .
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
EXPECTED MARCH 3RD, 2020
It’s okay to go in wary.
If you’re anything like me, maybe you’ve read Sara Holland’s work before. I tried reading Everless, and hated every minute of it. Only the premise of Havenfall kept me from bypassing it entirely; it sounds an awful lot like TAZ: Amnesty, which I loved to pieces. An inn sitting near the boundary between worlds? Murder? Desperate attempts to foster peace between factions on the cusp of violence? Yeah, it sounded a lot like Amnesty, so I gave it a shot.
And hey, 3.5 stars isn’t so bad! It was a hell of a lot more enjoyable than expected, and did some solid things with the plot that I’m eager to see a conclusion to. Plus, the mystery aspect kept me guessing even when I had some of it spooled out, and I never complain too much about a story keeping me on my toes like that!
And when you top it off with a casually queer cast (bi lead? lesbian side character? innkeeping husbands? hell yeah!)? Plus some fun plot twists? Absolutely a fun time.
But I still think I ought to dig into the good and the bad, because what else am I here for?
More murder than magic, but there’s still a healthy dose of both!
Set in the mountains of Colorado, Havenfall follows Maddie Morrow as her perfect summer at the one place she truly belongs goes horribly awry. With a murderer on the loose and her beloved uncle, Havenfall’s innkeeper in grave condition, it’s up to her to preserve the inn and the peace it represents for the remaining realms.
The murder alone, I think, was the best part of the story for me. I never turn down the chance to weed out suspects one by one until I have the answers, and I adore a good plot twist that shakes up everything I know (while still making perfect sense). Thankfully, Havenfall had both of these things, keeping me attached to the page to the point of reading the entire book in one sitting. As I tend to do. But with more gusto than usual.
That single murder sets everything in motion, and manages to tangle up so many disparate threads into a core mystery. There’s some degree of YA predictability that means you’ll probably see pieces of the plot coming, but it’s engineered in a way that remains engaging all the same.
“There has always been war; that doesn’t make us all monsters.”
Possibly the thing I appreciated most, in a “this is going to be underrated” sort of way, is that Havenfall doesn’t go the typical route with the expected antagonist. There are some elements of it that rubbed me the wrong way, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense that certain characters thought the way they did, while others were obviously far too prejudiced and inflexible. It made for a story line that didn’t excuse past actions and perceptions, while also outlining the real antagonists.
Of course, if the characters had been stronger, this might have come across even better. As it is, most of the side characters are on the weak side, particularly the love interest. Maddie herself is interesting once you get past the initial tragic backstory, and Taya caught my attention (even if Sara Holland has written her as a terrible motorcyclist when transporting a passenger, but I’m just picky when it comes to literary motorcycle safety, thank you), but I wish other members of the cast had been more prominent. Many feel like props, and didn’t lend themselves toward a fully nuanced approach of the theme.
And…where’s the magic?
Like I said, the story is more mystery than magic in many ways, and I can’t help feeling let down by the fact that we never see the realms that Havenfall protects. We also see very little magic (in part because of the properties of Havenfall, but still), and that disappointed me. I can’t control how a book meets my expectations, but it can affect the rating nonetheless, especially in this case. Show me the elemental realm with the raging storms! Give me a better look at that frozen realm and its people! Show me the other realms that have since closed!
At the end of the day, this is what brought Havenfall down below the 4 star mark. While it made for a fun read, the characters weren’t as strong as I would have liked, and it didn’t quite meet expectations. Am I still too in love with TAZ: Amnesty to let something so similar into my heart? Was this just not quite strong enough to earn a spot on my favorites shelf?
Whatever the reasons, I still had fun, and I’m looking forward to Book Two. Hopefully it has an equally stunning cover, and further exploration of the key characters and realms. That would improve on the current situation quite a bit, and shape the core source of conflict into something even more urgent and personal.
If it sounds like Havenfall could be a book for you, there’s still time to place a pre-order! It releases on March 3rd, just a week from now, so you should join me! There’s murder and magic and a hint of the monstrous! Isn’t that how all the best books go?
CW: violence (including gun violence), loss of a loved one, gore, underage drinking, self-harm (for magic), graphic injury, kidnapping, nudity