Review: Allegiance

Allegiance (Legacy #2) by Cayla Kluver
Release Date ~ February 28, 2012
Harlequin TEEN
ISBN13: 9780373210435
ARC received from publisher

Goodreads Synopsis:
Only I saw Narian for who he truly was: a young man with courage and an independent mind, and made to pay for what was outside his control. He couldn't help his past any more than he could help the way those intense, deep-blue eyes pierced me and held me captive.

An eighteen-year-old queen in love with the enemy as their countries pass the point of no return...

Bound to a man she cannot love, Queen Alera of Hytanica must forget Narian, the young man who holds her heart. For Narian is destined to conquer Hytanica at the behest of his master, the powerful magic-user known as the Overlord. Alera doesn't truly believe Narian will fight against Hytanica-until Cokyrian troops attack with Narian commanding the charge.

Faced with the greatest betrayal a heart can know, Alera must set aside personal feelings and lead her kingdom through its darkest time. And when all hope, will and courage seem lost, she must find strength and remember that even the blackest night must have a dawn....

I adored Cayla Kluver's debut novel, Legacy, which left me begging for more in the trilogy- so when I picked up Allegiance, I had extremely high expectations. And in many ways, I was just as impressed as I had been the first time around, yet I found myself easily frustrated in two areas which largely detracted from my enjoyment of this hugely anticipated sequel.
However, there are many strong things to this book from Cayla's impressive writing, to the excitement of action and political intrigue which is included in most of the book.

  1. A fantasy novel with a historical feel:

    Alera's world isn't a historical world, nor her story a historical account but there's something about it that feels so very real. Yet she easily blends in some magic and myths as well- but it's done so subtlely that it never feels unbelievable or entirely made up. It's familiar with all the mystical legends and strange occurences, yet never overpowers the rest of the story.
  2. Brilliant secondary characters:

    I think one of the way sin which Cayla's talent truly shines through is in her depiction of the secondary characters; there are a large number of them, but she brings them to life with their own unique stories and I find that they often overshadow even Alera herself. They don't come across as two-dimensional at all, and that's something I find rather rare in most books.
  3. A story ripe with political intrigue and danger:

    I was shocked at how much actually happens and changes in this book- it's a bit slow at first, but very quickly takes off and doesn't slow down until the very last pages. And it's so humbling and tragic, you can't help but feel moved by the devastating effects of the events which take place in Allegiance.
I'm torn on one issue though, which is that Allegiance is clearly a book with a message. At some point during the story, it ceased being a tale and seemed to become an avenue for the author to make a statement. I have no problem with that, except that I felt much of the story was lost to this attempt at making A Point. This is supposed to be a story about female empowerment- Alera's growth and the ways she feels trapped and held back is largely the key theme of the series. But the problem is that so much is lost to try and force this message across, and Alera doesn't strike me as the right character to carry it out.

Alera, a character I greatly admired in Legacy, seems to have regressed in Allegiance more than anything else. She's EXTREMELY petty and immature - often acting like a child, and throwing her own 18 year old versions of temper tantrums. And further, we're clearly supposed to dislike Steldor- but I don't. The story failed to make me appreciate Alera and Narian more and Steldor less, and in fact I felt just the opposite. It simply felt too much like Steldor was being villainized for things he never does and Narian easily trusted for little reason besides Alera's love for him. That, to me, is frustrating to no end. And Alera's failure to accept the consequences of her actions or even own up to them is disheartening. She often relies on others to cover for her, and blames them if they don't act according to her will.

The romance just isn't there for me. It feels too stilted and forced, and I now find myself rooting for the "wrong guy" (Clearly, he's supposed to be the wrong one for her, but I fail to see how the other option is any better). I don't buy into this forbidden love story at all. Not one bit. I'm just not sold on it, and that's disappointing.

And there's just too much of a giant internal loophole. The whole plan and reasoning behind why the struggles Hytanica endures just doesn't make sense. SPOILER ALERT: The rest of this paragraph is an absolute spoiler of the book, so skip this paragraph if you haven't read it yet. The whole reason we're given for why Hytanica will fall is because Narian is on the Cokyrian side- yet he says the only reason he's helping them is to save Alera's sister. So of course, a whole nation falls and people are brutally slaughtered because Alera won't sacrifice her sister- or is it really because she'd rather hold on to Narian? And he doesn't want to disappoint Alera of course, seeing as hti sis her sister. Which to me speaks volumes about Alera's loyalty to her country as Queen. YES it sucks that her sister would die. But it's this self-absorption of Alera's that bothers me to no end. And the fact that she doesn't blame Narian for ANYTHING whatsoever, yet fears Steldor for very little reason. I mean, she's scared that Steldor will hit her- yet she's the one slapping and biting him when she's upset? Ugh.

It's these two main issues that forced me to reduce my rating for this one- I'm curious to see how Sacrifice will turn out, but also not very hopeful that it can be turned around for an ending that I'll find satisfactory. And while it's not nearly as enjoyable as the first book, it's still an exciting and interesting read.

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Christina said...

I liked this one more than you did, but I see your points. I actually like that the romance is so up in the air, and I definitely found myself rooting for Steldor as well.

What I disagree with you on is Alera's character. I reread the end of Legacy before reading Allegiance, and found that I had improved Alera's character in my memory, because I liked the book. When I looked back at my review, I saw that I'd said I would have rated the book higher, but that Alera was kind of weak as a heroine, despite being very outspoken. Seeing her that way, I thought the progression of her stepping up to the plate was much more natural.

So too did her sacrificing everything for her sister's life, or Narian's. She married Steldor, who she completely loathes, solely because she wanted her sister (who said she would be okay with Steldor) not to have to marry him. It's not like Steldor would be the worst fate for her sister, who would have been happy enough, because she's just generally a happy girl. Alera has a huge blindspot for her favorite people. She cares about you or she doesn't.

Christina said...

Oh, and, I forgot to mention that I kind of liked that the kingdom got destroyed, although I do think it's lame to blame Narian for it--bad wrap. In most novels, if there's a choice between saving a loved one and 'the world,' the hero, of course, manages to save both. It's nice to see something a bit more realistic, and it will be so fascinating to watch Alera deal with the consequences of her actions.

Brenna said...

The funny thing is that I actually really enjoyed it overall- but Alera just bothered me so much, and I couldn't remember for the life of me what made Narian so great. And there wasn't nearly enough of him in Allegiance to convince me that they were so in love, which drove most of Alera's actions.

I didn't mind Alera that much in Legacy- I LOVE the idea of what she's struggling with (duty vs. love) and I was really hoping to see that carried out in this next one. But it didn't quite get there for me - it felt more like Alera wanted BOTH or just couldn't make up her mind. And I thought the overly villainization of Steldor was completely unnecessary and felt forced. I know that we're SUPPOSED to be rooting for Narian and hating Steldor, but the story had the opposite effect for me which is kind of a fail.

I also liked that the kingdom was destroyed- but my issue was that Alera doesn't blame Narian for ANY of it. I thought that was a realistic and interesting ending for sure. Not so sure it requires a third book though.

Alera makes a big point at the end of Legacy by choosing to fulfill her duty by marrying Steldor and choosing to become Queen- but she doesn't carry that through whatsoever. THAT'S what bothers me. It's a tough choice, and I sympathize. But I just didn't see enough growth in Alera's character and found her more frustrating than anything ( I mean really- she takes off BY HERSELF, Steldor comes to bring her back and she decides to BITE him?! How old is this girl- 3?)

Christa @ Hooked on Books said...

Saw your comment on my Goodreads so I had to come over and read your review. We definitely had a similar reaction.

I don't think I mentioned Steldor in my review but you're totally right. As far as I can tell the only thing he really did wrong was that he wasn't Narian. It was so unfair the way Alera treated him

curlypow said...

I also agree with you. Alera acted like a spoilt child throughout. My biggest problem was her lack of reaction and lack of help for her people when they were in the palace. Alera didn't do anything but whine and feel sorry for herself. Great review.

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