Whew, it has been a crazy few weeks. Someone remind me not to take eighteen hours of courses ever again, please? That said, I have finally, finally finished reading C. C. Aune’s debut novel, The Ill-Kept Oath and I hope she’s already tap-tapping away at a second book to follow.
Set in the early 1800s, The Ill-Kept Oath is a cross between historical fantasy and paranormal romance, though it leans heavily in the latter of the two genres for the majority of the novel. Prudence Fairfeather and her brother Edward are orphans taken in by Lord Middlemere. Raised as nobility, Prudence has nothing to her name and must wed well for her future. Her cousin, Josephine Weston, is Lord Middlemere’s only child and, a couple years younger than Prudence, also finds herself in the path of a relationship that, though she desperately wishes, is beneath her. As if the stress of needing to marry wasn’t enough, the two discover that they have the Inheritance, which is, more or less, magic that has been passed on through the generations. Both girls are also recipients of Talismans that once belonged to their mothers and these items appear to have a gravitational pull that neither girl can withstand, which lands them in trouble on more than one account. In addition to romance and magic, there are trolls, rebellious magic users, and a very real reason for Prudence to fear for her very life, lending a sense of urgency to the book.
That sense of urgency is not dealt with in a timely manner though, it seems. While I adored reading The Ill-Kept Oath, I can’t help but feel that there were moments in which the book simply dragged on. Granted, I’m not much of a fan of romance and what truly piqued my interest in regards to this book was the idea of magic and rebellion, two topics that I am most definitely a large fan of. These two subjects, though largely used in the book’s description, are almost minor elements in comparison to Prudence’s debut for the London Season. In fact, the main conflict of the book itself seems to take a backseat to the romance side of the story which, while bittersweet in its telling, might strike the reader as something that ought to come second to the fact that there are trolls rampaging around the countryside.
It isn’t until near the end of the book that things begin to pick up and start falling into place. Here we learn that the romance side of things play a very important, unseen role in a vile plot to rebel against laws put in place several years prior. Without giving away spoilers, the parts of the book that we slag through are all, despite how mundane they appear, vital to the situation that unfolds. Every element finds a way of coming together, and there are certainly moments that, as I read them, I was able to appreciate the earlier, seemingly pointless interactions of characters. In that regard, I must commend C. C. Aune’s ability to implement small pieces of seemingly pointless knowledge that are, in fact, pivotal to the story. With that in mind, even without being a fan of romance, I was able to at least appreciate Prudence’s involvement in the Marriage Mart.
One of the things I actually liked about The Ill-Kept Oath is the depth to each of its characters. Unlike many of the books that I’ve read lately where the characters are one-dimensional with no point of existence except to fill a certain role and none other, the characters that Aune has breathed life into are colorful and real. Josephine is sixteen, on the cusp of adulthood, and bears the qualities of a teen-aged girl, soon to be woman, that we expect to see, from immaturity to accepting the changes in her own feelings and emotions. Prudence has just crossed into adulthood, and as a reader I was able to sense and truly feel her reluctance to accept a marriage out of necessity, rather than love. Her frustration, and her way of deflecting offers, are not merely glazed over, but written with depth. Even Edward, Prudence’s brother, shows the awkwardness to be expected of a young man still in university that has, unfortunately, developed some less than favorable emotions.
I really wish that more had been explained about the Inheritance and that there wasn’t so much left open to guessing. I assume this is something that will be more fully addressed later on, assuming there will be a sequel, and if that is the case I certainly look forward to reading it. What The Ill-Kept Oath gives us is a mere glimpse into a dark, dark world with many secrets left to be uncovered. A place where things happen with little care for the results, as long as an end is obtained. Overall, I enjoyed the book, though I feel that the story could have had a heavier focus on the magical side of things, along with a quicker pace.
Finally, I would like to offer a heart-felt thanks to Netgalley, Wise Ink Creative Publishing, and C. C. Aune for an advanced copy of The Ill-Kept Oath in exchange for an unbiased review.