A Deal with the Elf King by Elise Kova
Categories: Romance, Fantasy
First Publication Date: 6. November 2020
Synopsis: The elves come for two things: war and wives. In both cases, they come for death.
Three-thousand years ago, humans were hunted by powerful races with wild magic until the treaty was formed. Now, for centuries, the elves have taken a young woman from Luella’s village to be their Human Queen.
To be chosen is seen as a mark of death by the townsfolk. A mark nineteen-year-old Luella is grateful to have escaped as a girl. Instead, she’s dedicated her life to studying herbology and becoming the town’s only healer.
That is, until the Elf King unexpectedly arrives… for her.
Everything Luella had thought she’d known about her life, and herself, was a lie. Taken to a land filled with wild magic, Luella is forced to be the new queen to a cold yet blisteringly handsome Elf King. Once there, she learns about a dying world that only she can save.
The magical land of Midscape pulls on one corner of her heart, her home and people tug on another… but what will truly break her is a passion she never wanted.
A Deal with the Elf King became one of my most anticipated releases of this year the moment it was announced – Elise Kova’s steampunk series The Alchemists of Loom has been one of my favorite for years now and I was very, very excited to pick this up. I have been enjoying fantasy romances lately and this sounded like the perfect escapist novel.
I had to adjust my expectations already on the first pages, when I realized this would be a clichéd, fun read with little to no nuance, character depth or politics. Not that I expect a political epic out of a romance novel, but since there is a Persephone/Hades inspiration and involved so many creatures in this world, I hoped for a bit of the politics that made, for example, The Cruel Prince an interesting read. Instead, we got A Court of Thorns and Roses watered down to the point where it was not even fun to read it anymore because I just knew what everone would do next, what all the twists are and what the conflicts would be, plus how they would be overcome. It was entertaining for the first half, as we saw them turn from enemies to hesitant lovers, but then I had hoped to get to the yearning and sexual tension and all I got was boring characters and no chemistry. You really can’t create chemistry between characters just by putting them in a room and making them horny. I just did not think Luella and Eldas worked as a couple, at all.
On top of that, I started caring less and less for them as the story went on, for the resons I mentioned above but also because they were just so flat: Luella is a mix of every main character ever (especially in YA and NA) and Eldas is Rhysand but with the emotional intelligence of a child. I got exhausted just by imagining existing near that man. Half the novel is spent with Eldas apologizing every two seconds (“emotional growth”, I guess) and the other half is spent with Luella stammering “But-” and nobody letting her finish the goddamn sentence.
I don’t love super steamy romances (I’m all about the yearning), and this was quite steamy enough for me. If you want ACOTAR-level hotness, this is not exactly for you.
Not all was painful to read, however – I loved the wolf and one of the elves (who helped Luella in the laboratory) is adorable. If what you want is a cute, light read with guaranteed HEA, you might enjoy this. For me, this was a bit dull – I’m not sure I will read the next book in this series, but maybe.
If you want a Persephone/Hades retelling, you might enjoy Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones (my favorite), Goddess of Spring by P. C. Cast (very steamy) and perhaps The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (with scheme-y faeries). If you love the despising-each-other-to-lovers trope (not exactly a hate-to-love trope, which I don’t like so much) with a hot, brooding love interest, I also enjoyed Heartstone by Elle Katherine White, a Pride and Prejudice retelling with dragons!