Last year I reviewed Anthea Sharp‘s Feyland trilogy and the first book in her Feyguard spinoff series. Last month, Anthea sent me an advance review copy of the second Feyguard book, Royal. I unfortunately wasn’t able to finish it before the release date, but I enjoyed it as much as the rest of the series, and am now happy to recommend it to my readers.
Royal “Roy” Lassiter didn’t figure much into my review of the original trilogy, so here’s a recap. Roy is the son of the CEO of VirtuMax, the gaming company that developed Feyland. He’s first introduced in The Bright Court (Feyland #2) as a spoiled, entitled little bitch. A glamour spell makes him the most popular and intriguing student at his new school. He’s the guy all the guys want to be and all the girls want to be with. Until he loses the glamour spell, and the rest of the school sees him the way protagonists Jennet and Tam do – a mediocre person with a lot of style and little substance. I don’t know if this was intentional on the author’s part, but I saw him as a parody of Edward Cullen.
The Twilight Kingdom (Feyland #3) left the readers with the impression that Roy did have some substance after all; he’d just lacked the opportunity (both on- and offscreen) to develop it. He gets that opportunity in Royal. As the title implies, this time Roy is the protagonist, with Jennet and Tam in supporting roles.
Roy is now a member of the Feyguard and of Jennet, Tam, and Marny’s inner circle. He’s happier with this small group of friends than he ever was with throngs of followers. But Jennet and Tam’s happy couplehood is a constant reminder that he’s struck out with every romantic prospect he’s had since moving to Crestview. The reader can guess that he’ll get a chance with Brea Cairgead, an emissary from the Dark Queen disguised an exchange student from Ireland.
Brea and Roy are particularly well-suited for each other. They were both brought into the world as tools for a narcissistic creator’s own purpose, and they’re both trying to discover and cultivate identities beyond that origin. Roy is the only child of a materialistic corporate mogul who’s been grooming him to take over her empire from birth, right down to naming him Royal. Brea was just a fish (no, really) living a simple, carefree life in the waters of the Unseelie Realm until the Dark Queen remade her as a naiad and sent her to the human world to lure people into Feyland. Neither queen accounted for her creation having a will of its own. Roy doesn’t care about business or technology, and would rather develop his hidden talent as an artist. Brea would rather befriend humans than feed on their mortal essence. They both long to be seen for who they really are, but continue to hide it because they’re legitimately terrified of the consequences.
While Royal probably has the least actual gameplay out of the Feyland and Feyguard books, it keeps all the factors I’ve loved about the series so far. What gameplay there is shows a familiarity with real fantasy RPGs. Roy, Jennet, and Tam are all learning alternate characters in this volume, and they play them like competent gamers unused to a new class with new powers. There’s still no femmephobia or catty girl-hate. Brea is as literal a Manic Pixie Dream Girl as possible (a trope that can be handled positively imo), and neither Jennet nor Marny is threatened by her wispy fey mystique. Gender stereotyping is ignored in-universe. No one thinks twice about a girl playing a knight or a boy playing a caster who draws with light. Roy’s mother does have a meltdown when she finds he’s been drawing flowery pictures of faeries, but it’s not because the pursuit is insufficiently masculine; it’s because she doesn’t see any money in it. (One has to wonder how much she paid her graphic designer.) The fact that Brea has never played video games isn’t brushed off as “Meh, she’s a girl”. Instead, it tips Jennet off to the fact that she isn’t human.
Ultimately the focus on the characters is what makes Royal worth the read. It’s great to see Jennet and Tam’s relationship, officially established at the end of the Feyland trilogy, progress with little angst or drama. Marny continues to be everything. I really hope she gets her own Feyguard book complete with a worthy love interest, because she’s one of my favorite things about this series. Although one of the best things about her is that she’s happy and confident without a boyfriend, I want to see someone love Marny as much as she loves herself. And, of course, the heart of the book is Roy and Brea finding the truth about themselves and each other. The end of their story is bittersweet without being tragic, and hopeful without being easy.
If you’re already a fan of Feyland, click here to add Royal to your collection. If you have yet to enter the Realm, click here for the Feyland trilogy, and here to continue the story of the Feyguard with Spark.