Under the Trees by Ashley Maker
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Fantasy, Romance
Publishing Info: September 15th 2015, Cliffhanger Press; kindle edition
Star Rating: 5/5
Back Cover Summary:
Desperate to prevent an abusive arranged marriage, Princess Araya flees to a neighboring kingdom, only to land at the mercy of the impulsive Crown Prince Thoredmund, who provides refuge in a secluded forest and teaches her survival skills. Her surprise at the unexpected hold the prince has on her heart mirrors his shock at falling for the one girl he can’t have.
As the young couple’s feelings for each other grow, the fragile alliance between the two kingdoms threatens to break apart. With a vengeful duke and an enraged king fast on their trail, Thor and Araya must decide how much they’re willing to risk for love.
Even if staying together means starting a war.
Under the Trees is an enchanting read that captured me from the very beginning. The opening is one of the very best I have read; it starts right in the action, immediately grabbing your attention. I also felt immediately connected to Araya because her fear and emotions come through so well in the first chapter.
The style of writing is excellent which helps the story flow very well. The book is written in the alternating first person perspectives of Araya and Thoredmund. This can be very tricky and was handled very well by the author. The characters voices were distinctive and it is interesting to see how the two characters viewed the unfolding events.
The two main characters are very strong and well thought out. I like how Araya is very strong, yet at times she can also be quite timid which I think is a very interesting presentation and also quite realistic. Her determination is an admirable trait which makes her likable. I also like how she isn’t just a damsel in distress, she also has the ability to stand her own ground. Thoredmund is very tentative and kind, and instantly likeable. I find it interesting how the other characters – especially his father – perceptions of him change as the book progresses. I really felt connected to the characters and definitely cared about what would happen to them. Another good point is that the romance isn’t forced and develops in a very natural way.
The minor characters in Under the Trees are as well thought-out as the two main characters. All of the characters have depth which is great to see. Often authors focus so much on their main characters that they forget to develop the others, but that is not the case here.
The world building is fairly good but Maker doesn’t go into too much detail, which isn’t really a problem as it isn’t essential to the plot. She alludes to different traditions in the different kingdoms which is a nice touch. The tensions between the kingdoms is well written and there is actually a reason for it which is explained.
Although the plot is simple, it is good and captivating. The fast-paced nature of the novel keeps the interest of the reader without glazing over the characters development. The story was certainly not predictable and there were a few twists that left me stunned. It has a satisfying ending, but not in a cliché way.
Overall, Under the Trees is quite a fast, easy read with very likable characters and a plot which will keep you hooked. There is just something about this book which I absolutely love and which made me give it five stars. Even if you are not usually interested in this kind of genre I would definitely give this gem a read.