Don't let the cozy cover fool you...

Between the eye-catching cover and the folks on BookTube who have given this book high praise, I knew I had to check it out, especially since its short page count made it a great candidate for a summer read. 

4/5 This short fantasy book is great for adult readers who enjoy the darker side of fairy tales and are looking for something new and creative.

I think the first and most important item to note is that this is NOT a cozy fantasy in spite of how much the cover might convey that. I actually knew this going in, but I had no idea how dark this book would really be. The story is split into four parts that could kind of function like separate short stories, but there are some larger plot threads connecting them all into one cohesive narrative. I was initially hooked with the cool pseudo-creation myth that serves as a prologue of sorts. Then the story shifts to follow Adriel, the young woman who is pictured on the cover. I found her story captivating and enjoyed the side characters she meets along the way, many of which will play a part in stories to come. One thing that threw me off right away was the use of adult language. Strong words are not used in excess though and it was probably a good thing to quickly establish this book as being for adults since there are some very dark turns that the story takes at the end of this first story. The second story is even bleaker and follows a much less likeable main character. It was around this halfway mark that I was truly not sure if I was going to like this book or not. The darkness felt a little more twisted than it needed to be and it was a real bummer of a plot that clashes heavily with what I initially mistook for a world of magical whimsy. Fortunately, my enjoyment of the narrative improved during the third story. While the tone never really gets any less dark, I felt like the second half of the book did more to give me a sense of why things were happening. I'd been feeling like maybe this book was a little needlessly sadistic, so pulling in more of the world's lore and mythology helped to contextualize the harsh events that these different characters experience. There's still a lot that I felt was left unexplored by the time the book comes to it's conclusion, but everything ends on a note that was probably about as satisfying as it could have been without betraying it's more morbid tone or stretching out the book to longer than it needed to be. While I think there's a lot of folks who are going to absolutely love the Grimm's Fairy Tales on steroids situation that this book offers, one small drawback for me was that it almost became sort of predictable in that I expected something awful to happen at the end of each story.

This book is interesting in that there isn't really a "main" character. A number of characters will appear across the different stories and you could probably argue that one is the most important to the plot, but in terms of page time, we get four distinct protagonists. Adriel is a young enchantress in training, Handel is a drunk who work's as a lumberman and makes a daring play to cure his daughter's sickness, Brade is a foreman who hopes to honor someone he's lost, and Ashe is a mother desperately trying to protect her child. One thing I will say is that all four characters felt distinct and their individual stories were quite unique from one another even though each serves to advance the main plot in some way. This balance of character work with meticulous plotting is something I definitely appreciated. I also found myself genuinely caring about these characters and rooting for them even though I knew something terrible was probably going to happen to them in the end. I don't really want to spoil too much about any of their arcs, but I do want to mention how much I loved all the different connection points. Adriel meets up with a family in her story that then has a secondary role in the next story and then the patriarch of that household is then the main character of another. Even someone like a simple bartender from one story appears later in the book and has a highly important role to play. I think this helped to make me feel deeply invested in the side cast, even though some of those folks meet some rather dark ends as well. The interconnectivity of everything also sort of created this sense that the world itself is as much a character as any of the people we meet over the course of the adventure. 

In some ways, this is a somewhat modest setting. It focusses on the forest land of Albadone which really just a part of a much bigger world. There are other cities and regions which are mentioned by some of the characters to help remind us that this world is much more expensive than what we get to see. I imagine that bringing up these other locations makes for a good way to tease other books in the series as well (it seems the second book is set in a place called Sol Forne which is mentioned several times here). There are also some nice flourishes of mythology. We don't get a ton of insight into the True One, who is this land's deity, or the melk, who are a really interesting race of mythological creatures that seem to have some beef with the humans (who we learn were not originally native to Albadone and are said to have driven the melk out). While a lot of the finer points about the religion and supernatural beings remained obscure, I got this sense that the story is kind of focused on a running theme of humans vs. nature. The "cost of progress" is brought up in different ways when it concerns how the world is changing and how people try to evolve their way of life. Meanwhile, the enchantress characters seek to become more in tune to the earth and learn the secrets of the fruits that it bears, though again, they do this largely for their own gain. It's all handled in a very subtle and intriguing way which allowed me to have a sort of dialogue with the text. The way that Albadone is represented as an almost living, breathing being also made me feel connected to it on a more personal level and empathize with it as much as I might one of the characters. I think this fantasy landscape that the authors have crafted here is something really special and there are some strong roots with which to build the rest of the series upon. 

This is a very well done, albeit simple presentation. The interior fonts and formatting make for easy reading and I appreciated little touches like different chapter icons for each story/section along with some little divider iconography as well. The cover is very eye-catching, though I am a little torn because it's almost a bit misleading as well. While I think it offers a good representation of one of the main characters and seems to recreate a specific scene from the first story which captures key details that will matter later on, it's a little too cozy-looking for the story that lies within. Covers are super hard though and this is a really nice-looking one that definitely drew me to the story, but I think it's important to not to be fooled by it's bright colors and charming aesthetic. I will also say that I thought the "About the Author" section was really cute and I love that this was written by a couple (impressively, I really could not tell that this book had two different authors, so they must work super well together). 

SEASONS OF ALBADONE is a splendidly creative short fantasy book that was a bit too twisted for my tastes at times and became a little predictable as a result. That said, I think this is going to be a perfect read for those who like adult takes on classic fairy tales and folklore. It's also just a nice, quick read, so I think it could work well as a slump-buster or break between larger reads as well. 

(+) Perfect length for the story being told.
(+) Interesting and relatable characters, including four compelling main protagonists.
(+) Great connections and crossovers between the different stories and characters.
(+) A creative world filled with magic and rules that remain somewhat mysterious.
(+) There is a lot of potential in this wider world to create new adventures.
(+) A carefully crafted atmosphere. 
(-) The darkness was even more severe than I expected which left a sour taste for about half the book.
(-) I started to just expect the messed up moments/outcomes to different situations.
(-) It's unclear if the events in Albadone will be followed up on or not and there were some threads left feeling incomplete by the end of this adventure. 


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