Lately I’ve been drawn away from comics and manga in favor of romantic prose. I’ve been sucked into the world and fandom of fantasy-romance that is often enchanting, wonderful, but sometimes dark and spicy. A Deal with the Elf King was one of my recent purchases that came recommended by the deep well of fans on Instagram’s book community. I find sometimes that I have very specific tastes when it comes to stories I want to read about, and this book fits at least most of those.
A Deal with the Elf King is a standalone novel out of the series Married to Magic. Elise Kova has crafted a world that pits Elves and Fae against humanity as they both struggle with the very nature of the world. In order to keep the balance of the seasons, a human queen is selected every 100 years, pledged to marry the Elf King. When the current cycle rears its head, the young Herbalist Luella finds herself chosen as his bride, unlocking magic she never knew she possessed.
In terms of thematic and categorical elements, this book is an enemies-to-lovers story that sits on the edge of YA and Adult where a human girl must struggle to control strange abilities while faced with a strange new world belonging to Elves and Fae alike. Both the Elf King Eldas and Luella find themselves thrust into a marriage built on duty and responsibilities and now must try and find a way to live and love one another. It’s somewhat enigmatic of Beauty and Beast, seeing past the surface of someone while trying to deal with unfavorable circumstances.
While I enjoyed the tropes presented in this book, I had some trouble with the writing at first. The beginning of the novel seems to go too quickly with a love interest immediately cast aside and made into a villain. The two characters had a long history together that seems to be brushed aside as a plot device and jumping off point for various feminist themes. I’m not sure that it was entirely believable on an emotional level, and I think his existence is kind of glossed over throughout the rest of the book, at least in how his betrayal affects Luella going forward.
“I have a right to know your true name.”
“You have a right to nothing of mine that isn’t freely given.”– Elise Kova, A Deal with the Elf King
Themes of female empowerment, choice, ownership of one’s self and body punctuate events throughout the novel as Luella tries to inject humanity into a world that is devoid of it. Control is something that Eldas as the king needs, but seeing him relinquish some of that vice grip leads to stirrings of understanding between them. In this sense, you could say that their relationship becomes fairly healthy overtime as they both test each other’s boundaries and make compromises like a true marriage. He comes to respect her choices and her need to be able to choose, eventually finding a way to work with her to solve their world’s problems. Seeing the mask of the dark and stern Elf King crack to show humanity and compassion underneath is what drew me to their relationship and kept me reading onward.
I would say the main conflict of the novel is their relationship itself and the nature of Luella’s magic, and any other conflict Kova adds seems small and secondary to those. I think she might have had the chance to inject more political intrigue into the story, but it probably would have made the story darker and longer than she may have wanted. Kova’s writing and purpose behind this book always felt like a modern fairy tale, crafted to be light and warm, with the expected happy ending. Though part of me wonders how the story would have felt if we got to see more of the politics of this world and had a bit more inner-court conflict.
Overall, if you enjoy enemies-to-lovers romances that involve magic, elves, and other worlds, but perhaps don’t want the spice and darkness other series might hold, A Deal with the Elf King is a good choice. I think I personally need a little more spice and edge in my fantasy-romance reads, but this was a nice quick escape.
~~Thanks for reading!~~
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