Title: Eubeltic Descent
Author: Nadine C. Keels
Publication Date: August 23, 2018
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Thank you to Nadine for requesting this review and sending us the epub. All opinions expressed are my own.
Your soul will remember.
Abigaia Grena wasn’t born mute, but in a world of people who aren’t very interested in hearing what she has to say, she loses her voice in more ways than one. Growing up with her father’s stories about her royal Eubeltic descent, Abi has always dreamed of traveling to the Eubeltic Realm in search of any traces of her ancestry.
With her ragtag group of friends, she uses her silence to master thievery, but soon grows to hate it as the guilt builds up. However, it seems that fate has heard her and brings her to Diachona, a Eubeltic town, where her hopes are set ablaze once again, even if one of her closest friends considers her dreams a waste of time. Clinging to her father’s stories when she was young, Abi prays that her soul will indeed remember who she is.
By the end of the book, I was pleasantly surprised, mainly because the cover set some very different expectations (yes, I judged the book by its cover – I’m sorry, I’m only human!). The beginning of the story starts off slow, and doesn’t pick up until about a third of the way through, though there were a few parts that were fundamental for understanding later events. That being said, the slow beginning took me a few days longer to get through and I wasn’t particularly invested in any of the characters until I finally got a more well-rounded sense of Abi as herself, instead of who she wishes she was, or instead of how others saw her.
In the first half, Abi reminds me of Belle in so many ways: her father was the “crazy old man” with the strange daughter whose only solace is found in books, and the man who wants her hand in marriage has different plans for her life, none of which include going to see the Eubeltic Realm. It’s only when Abi gets to Diachona that she feels heard, and I love that she finally finds people who not only want to understand her, but who somewhat already do.
After Abi’s first conversation with a guard she meets on her trip, Daun, she finally comes alive to me. Something about her life back home in Reeh felt suffocating because there were so little choices she had, and I think that’s partly why it took me so long to get through it. Meeting Daun, who is the first person she meets who signs, and his deaf sister Valorie, changes her perception of everything and is the first time Abi feels a sense of belonging. I found myself constantly asking, who could we become if we were allowed to fully be ourselves? And I’m grateful to feel like the people in my life not only give me permission, but truly love who I am when I am myself.
There’s nothing wrong with finding a place you belong.
Something that I particularly liked about Abi’s story is that we don’t see her become this new person, she was most likely this person before, but was never in a position to show anyone what she could be. She is compassionate, and funny, and like anybody else, she has some healing to do, but we don’t know it until she finds a place to just be; sometimes all we need are friends who remind us who we are.
Along with all this self-discovery, Abi faces some larger social issues with Diachona. Far from a utopia, the town has poor sectors, and prides itself on the words of their ancient king: let prevailing law prevail. But as Abi becomes more comfortable with using her voice, and with a history of being a position where she couldn’t use her voice, she finds herself researching the true meaning of the phrase, and finds out that the motto is incomplete – it’s meant to be let prevailing law prevail in love. She concludes with a signed speech about how the law – and its enforcers – must love all of its people.
Overall, I enjoyed it as a lazy day read, and there were some good themes, but I felt like they weren’t fully committed or as fleshed out as I would’ve liked them to be. As a sucker for characters who finally find a place they belonged, I resonated with Abi in her journey, and I really appreciated her perspective when it came to centering someone who is mute, and loved Nadine’s primary focus on this community.
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