Kingdom of Exiles: Fae fantasy and sentimentality

Kingdom of Exiles by S.B. NovaKingdom of Exiles by S.B. NovaKingdom of Exiles by S.B. Nova

Here we have the tale of Serena Smith, blacksmith’s daughter exiled from her puritan-like settlement and then kidnapped by fairies and sold in the Kingdom of Aldar, which has much worse political problems than the oppressive community from which she’s taken. The difference is, she finds a way of making a difference — a thing she could not do in her human home.

I feel like this kind of fairy story is a bit at war with itself. Kingdom of Exiles (2017) bills as a feminist tale and means to make Serena fierce and self-actualizing, but there are at least as many times when the story can’t be served by this kind of persona and it falls into sharp conflict with its own ideals. Women ought to be playing heroic roles, but human power is never as good as fairy power in this story. When humans are amplified with magic, we’re again, not talking about feminine power. What is it we’re meant to cheer for? Humans becoming less human? Also, the romance fetishizes the fae in their superior power and physique relative to humans and I just don’t know how I feel about that as a self-respecting humanoid.

S.B. Nova is constantly telling me about the profundity of people’s reactions and feelings instead of showing me. At times this felt forced and even sentimental. The fae are drawn up as an austere race compared with more sensitive humans, but we ultimately see so much fae emotional display without any of it feeling well earned.

Serena is sold into a military type of training camp for both fae and human captives. This kind of training ground is pretty common and it’s all right when well done, but it wasn’t in Kingdom of Exiles. I just couldn’t suspend disbelief. I’ve been in intense training environments and nothing about this world felt believable, down to details about food consumed. No one takes pastries into the mountains, people! They’re too heavy and they’ll be smashed in your backpack. Too many of the trials felt like kids’ scavenger hunts and when all characters took themselves so seriously, I couldn’t help myself from laughing aloud.

It’s possible this was diverting story for some readers, but I found it both contradictory and sentimental.

Published in 2017. The brightest of stars are born on the darkest of nights. Serena Smith is unusual. Growing up in a backwoods village, her life is lonely and dull. Then, on her eighteenth birthday, she’s gifted a magical heirloom only to be snatched by fae and condemned to a lifetime in chains. Dragged to Aldar, a fae kingdom ruled by a tyrant witch, Serena discovers a forbidden love, and meets fellow outcasts, each with their own dark secrets. As the lives of warriors, rebels, and witches clash,they find a shared destiny. For only together, and with Serena’s unique gifts, can they survive long enough to build the flames of a revolution. Only together can they go to war …

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TAYA OKERLUND joined FanLit in October 2017. Taya's first career was in public service in the federal government. She previously lived in Japan and China and speaks both Mandarin Chinese and Japanese. More recently, she authored YA novel Hurricane Coltrane (WiDo, 2015) and currently reads and writes in spare moments between therapy runs and child rearing heroics.

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One comment

  1. Marion /

    “… and I just don’t know how I feel about that as a self-respecting humanoid.”

    Thanks for standing up for us humanoids everywhere, Taya! :)

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