Havenfall by Sara Holland Book Review

I’ve been in a reading slump for the past few months. Maybe I just have too much to work on and think about to properly sit back and enjoy myself. With that said, even though as a result of my slump it took me a while to read this…I did enjoy my time with Havenfall.

Maddie Morrow’s family went through a nightmare long ago they never recovered from. Someone or something killed her little brother Nate, and her sweet innocent mother confessed to the crime. She has been on death’s door ever since. But Maddie is convinced completely it was a Solarian. What is that? Well, there are three adjacent realms to our world, Fiordenkill, Byrn and Solaria. Fiordenkill is mostly a frost-ridden world with fruit that can still magically grow. Byrn is a world with such insane weather, you can always feel the ground shaking, but years ago the Silver Prince was able to create a wall where their main city of Oasis was protected from the elements. Little is known about Solaria, at least for those who don’t live there, because the doorway at Havenfall Inn has been sealed off. You see, our world is known as Haven, and Havenfall Inn is a magical hotel up in the mountains of Colorado where beings are able to travel between realms. And Solaria’s portal has been closed for decades because the Solarians are seen as strange, evil things with the darkest of magic.

Havenfall Inn is operated by her uncle Marcus, and Maddie used to grow up there, and had fun times with her friend Brekken. Her father moved them away to get away from the hassle that killed her brother and sent her mother to prison, but Maddie decides to go behind her father’s back and buy a train ticket up there to spend her summer, when the original plan was to find something she could put on a portfolio to get a regular job or go to college. All is okay, even if there’s that sensation. But Marcus ends up in a coma, the portal to Solaria ends up opening again, Brekken ends up vanishing with proof he had something to do with it all, and Maddie must take the reins, something she has never done before, in the middle of the Annual Peace Summit, an annual celebration between realms that now has everyone terrified.

Holland’s last series, the NYT bestselling Everless duo, had the same sort of fantasy climate, in that it has fun exploring the history and function of the world and didn’t push it too hard. The explorations in Everless, of a society where currency could be manipulated into time, either giving further time and power as a result to those in power and giving less time and less life to those in poverty. Havenfall does not fully explore these worlds as much as I hoped. I’ll be kind of disappointed if the sequel doesn’t bring the characters into Fiorden, Byrn and Solaria. That’s this book’s main flaw. But we’re given a healthy dose of how Havenfall has been managed, kept secret and kept at peace. We’re given introduction into those who are in charge of downplaying conflict and restraining tradition.

Madeline is a refreshing example of a bisexual protagonist, having a male crush on Brekken and female crush on Taya. For starters, the love triangle is barely acknowledged, if anything because the Solarian door and worrying about the true motives of one of them are prioritized conflicts. Also, Madeline never comes off as greedy or pushy to either of them, and it feels like she would want to take the time to explore dating possibilities only if they were comfortable on their own terms first. Most people who like more than one gender are like this, and because of some people who do not see bisexuals as true LGBT+ (an analogy I’m against entirely) it’s important to talk about them in this kind of light.

It is occasionally slow. Or maybe that’s the impression I got from my slump. You could mainly call this a mystery novel, wondering how something ties into the crisis, or if it doesn’t really, and who is the main one pulling the strings. And it leads to a satisfying climax that makes me excited for Phoenix Strike. I just feel this is more suitable as the first in a trilogy rather than a duology. There’s still much to explore, much to do, and many relationships to develop.

If you like this, I’d try Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Everless

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