Passion, Murder, Fighting, Sex, Politics- Cara’s Twelve by Chantel Seabrook has it all.
Title: Cara’s Twelve
Author: Chantel Seabrook
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Polyamorous (Reverse Harem)
Date published: 30 August 2016
Review Rating: 4/5
Author/Publishers Recommended Reading Age: 18 + (sexual content)
Synopsis: Raised in the backwater province of Crowthorne, Cara finds her fate bound to a system she despises and a goddess she no longer believes in. When it becomes clear that the heir to the Elbian throne has found disfavour in the eyes of the goddess Annul, Cara is ordained by blood and required by law to take her cousin’s place as heir apparent.
One man from each of the twelve provinces are chosen by the royal council to pledge their lives and swords as champions and consorts of the future queen. From these men, Cara must choose the future king of Elbia. Before she is able to take her place on the throne, Cara and her Twelve must visit each province and perform a sacred ceremony, one that will make Cara question everything she thought was real.
Cara soon realizes that not all of the men who swore to protect her are what they seem, and there are those who would use her as a tool to gain power.
Right, so I downloaded this novel thinking it sounded interesting but withheld any sort of high hopes for it. I mean, I love to read paranormal fiction along the lines of the Cassie Palmer series or the first 10 Anita Blake books, rarely do I go for epics, but I thought I’d give this one a whirl. Boy am I glad I did.
I loved Cara’s Twelve. The story threw you straight into the action and by chapter six I knew I would be in for a long night of reading. Seabrook took an idea and masterfully turned it into a novel full of political plots, murder, revenge, vows, love, passion, sex, heartbreak, innocence, war, and wit.
The characters were, I felt, placed in situations that the reader could easily identify with- not the “being chosen to be queen completely unprepared” part but perhaps the “life-changing direction without your consent” part. Cara had my empathy as she had to quickly lose her naivete and navigate a path that was never meant to be hers and my rage whenever somebody stepped above their boundaries and treated her as a child by belittling her decisions or removing them from her completely. I felt a little sad when she mourned the deaths of various characters, and I championed her and urged her into action when she was threatened. That being said, I did find some of her behaviour a little frustrating though it worked in well with her circumstance and the story’s background.
The men in her harem were interesting and developed as individuals, rather than being so similar you had trouble telling them apart. I enjoyed the little quirks that each man possessed and found it encouraging that despite the fact that they were all competing love interests, these men were just that- men. They made mistakes the same as Cara, they had emotional baggage and personality hangups, they liked and hated each other and they dealt with issues such as embarrassment, humiliation, loneliness, being scared, familial love, anger, heartbreak, friendship, and harassment. I found it edifying that an author would put her leading men through the same emotions as her leading lady instead of making one sex almost without fault while the other carried enough flaws for them both.
I do have to say that having twelve leading men did muck with me for a while and I was tempted to actually write out their names and where they came from just so I could keep track of everyone. I also found that with so many leading men a few became lost in the crowd. Eventually, the story consisted of the main six or so men while the others faded into and out of obscurity. It would have been nice to have seen more of some of the lesser men in the harem rather than just having them constantly referred to as “the men”. I certainly would have been a little less confused about which one they were when they re-emerged if they’d been given a little more page time.
Plot-wise I really enjoyed the concept of not only a reverse harem but of a reversed rule. A world based around a matriarchal society in which the crown passed from mother to daughter, instead of passing from King to son or daughter. An unprepared descendant of the goddess having to visit the provinces of each of her twelve chosen consorts before choosing a husband and taking on the Queenship while hurriedly learning all that was expected of her. I found the politics of Cara’s unfolding dilemma interesting and political strategies and movements of various characters simple but well devised for this plot. On top of this, I thoroughly enjoyed the knowledge Seabrook showed of the animals and transport she used within her writing. It was refreshing to read passages where the author knew the correct terms for items, how the weather and roads would affect transport and just how much burden a beast could bear realistically.
Here’s the problem though, while the novel slowly worked itself into a frenzy of political and romantic chaos I found the ending quite rushed. Suddenly we’ve gone from a build-up of political upheaval with bodies and emotions starting to pile up, to an all-out war, to the end of the novel in all of 100 pages. The main battle itself was all of three pages long with half of that being rousing speeches and commentary. Just to make sure you understand my disappointment, the novel is 335 pages long. I’m an action girl at heart and after so much build-up to this moment it was rather disappointing to have it end so quickly. I also felt a little empty at the lack of finality with the third antagonist. One minute they’re a massive part of the storyline and the next they’ve simply vanished. While I understand this leaves the storyline open for a sequel if Seabrook chooses to write one, and I kind of hope she does, it still left the novel feeling incomplete. Not the best for something that is presented as a stand-alone.
Other than that, and a couple of minor spelling mistakes, I really, really enjoyed this novel. It was a great break from the paranormal works I regularly read and I didn’t ever feel like I was caught a story that was heavy on loved up drama and light on plot. As far as ratings go, despite my disappointment with the final battle I’m still giving this book a 4 out of 5. It was just that enjoyable.
If you’d like to see what all the fuss is about you can grab your own copy here