Author: KayLynn Flanders
Publication date: July 21, 2020
Genre: young adult fantasy
My rating: 4/5 stars
Familiar yet fresh, and filled with some of my favorite character-related tropes (including badass warrior princesses, royalty in disguise, and a “mutual pining” sort of romance), Shielded was an enjoyable read and a solid start to what promises to be an interesting new fantasy series.
For fans of Sorcery of Thorns and Furyborn comes a thrilling new fantasy about a kingdom ravaged by war, and the princess who might be the key to saving not only those closest to her, but the kingdom itself, if she reveals the very secret that could destroy her.
The kingdom of Hálendi is in trouble. It’s losing the war at its borders, and rumors of a new, deadlier threat on the horizon have surfaced. Princess Jennesara knows her skills on the battlefield would make her an asset and wants to help, but her father has other plans.
As the second-born heir to the throne, Jenna lacks the firstborn’s–her brother’s–magical abilities, so the king promises her hand in marriage to the prince of neighboring Turia in exchange for resources Hálendi needs. Jenna must leave behind everything she has ever known if she is to give her people a chance at peace.
Only, on the journey to reach her betrothed and new home, the royal caravan is ambushed, and Jenna realizes the rumors were wrong–the new threat is worse than anyone imagined. Now Jenna must decide if revealing a dangerous secret is worth the cost before it’s too late–for her and for her entire kingdom.
There is a lot to love about this book, most notably, the characters. Jennesara is a pretty cool princess, who is a crazy-competent fighter and also loves to spend time in the library–in other words, my kind of heroine. She isn’t a flawless Mary Sue type; she works hard for what she has, and we actually get multiple scenes of her stretching, practicing her sword skills, and doing exercises to stay in shape. Her magical abilities don’t come naturally, either, and she struggles a lot to be able to wield them with any degree of precision. Heck, there are at least two or three times in the book where she is badly injured and her injuries impair her abilities to do what she needs to do. This is so important: characters can’t be perfect all the time, and the fact that Jenna isn’t makes her relatable.
Jenna’s relationships are fun to watch as well–a friendship-turned-romantic-interest that she can’t act on, a strong female friendship with another princess, and–one of my favorite things–an adorable, overly eager child who treats everything like an adventure and majorly looks up to Jenna. What can I say? I’m a sucker for little kids, both in real life and in books.
The worldbuilding here was also handled well—three distinct kingdoms with their own cultures, linguistic quirks, fashions, and views on magic (though we really only got to see two of them in this book–here’s hoping we get more info on Riiga in book two!). There were a lot of questions that were left unanswered, from details on the magic system to explanations of national politics, but I have a feeling that those are going to be expanded on in the next book.
In terms of plotting, this was a book that felt incredibly familiar. The tropes in it are, for the most part, not anything new: betrayal by people once thought to be allies, arranged marriages, a princess hiding her identity for the sake of both her own safety and the safety of others, ancient mages out for revenge, and all that fun stuff. This isn’t a bad thing; those tropes are popular for a reason, and Flanders’ writing made it easy to keep turning the pages. But it is worth noting that, if you’re expecting twists galore, this probably isn’t going to deliver on that front. Even the few twists that were written in were, at least to me, very predictable. Again, this isn’t bad–it is par for the course for this type of book.
As a final note, can I just say, Flanders writes awesome fight scenes? Her descriptions of physical maneuvers, swordplay, strategy, pain, and every other element of one-on-one combat are vivid without being overwhelming. I do love a good fight scene.
Honestly, this was just a really solid debut. It wasn’t quite the level of “oh my god my mind has been blown” that would make it a 5-star, but it is definitely still worth a read.
Go ahead, add it to your shelf, buy yourself a copy, and help support a debut author!
About the Author
KayLynn Flanders has a degree in English Language and editing, and has been a freelance editor and book designer for over twelve years. Her debut novel, a YA fantasy, will be published by Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House) July 21, 2020. KayLynn and her family live in Utah between some mountains and a lake, and she is directionally challenged without them. She loves reading, writing, traveling, and volleyball, and thinks there’s nothing better than a spur-of-the-moment road trip.
For more awesome content about this book, including reviews, mood boards, interviews, and more, check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour HERE!
And now, the part you’ve all been waiting for: a giveaway for one finished copy of Shielded! This giveaway is open to US only (sorry, international friends), and it runs from August 3rd to August 9th. Click HERE to enter.
That’s all for now, folks. Is Shielded on your TBR now? Leave a comment and let me know!
Huge thank you to TBR and Beyond Tours for letting me be a part of this blog tour, and thank you to the publisher, Delacorte, for providing me with an eARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.