Not every book is going to meet everyone’s expectations and that was definitely the case for me when it came to Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau. I just want to say I really wanted to love this book. The concept seemed promising. Like I said on my Instagram post, I was hoping for a cross between Hunger Games and Three Dark Crowns. I am not going to just simply say, “I hated this book” or “it was awful”, because that is not the case at all. I have great respect for ALL published authors. That being said, this review will be based on valid reasons why this book fell flat for me as an avid reader.
Before I begin, let me fill you all in on what this book was about and then I will give you a few reasons why I did not like the book and pair each reason with examples from the book. Our story is told in two different perspectives, Princess Carys and her twin brother, Prince Andreus. The book opens with Carys and Andreus learning that their father, the king, and their brother, the heir apparent, have both been killed in a highly suspicious ambush. The sudden death of her husband, the King and their son, has devastated the Queen, their mother. The Queen succumbs to madness and refuses to rule the kingdom, leaving the twins next in line for the throne. Because they are twins, and no one knows who was born first by law they have to win the crown by competing in seven trials and whoever has the most points wins. Simple enough right?
So, I had several issues with this book. The first issue were the names for the characters. The next issue was the obvious plotting against the competing heirs and the frustrating trust issues that developed between the two siblings. A big issue I had with this book was the failure to give the readers a clear view of the world she created the story in. I also felt the trials that took place were a little weak and completely anti climatic. The last issue I had with this book was the character development in Prince Andreus. This book had so much potential and it was truly disappointing it did not get the time spent on it that it needed.
I know having an issue with the names of the characters may sound petty but hear me out first. I personally feel that the name of a character should match their personality and fit in the theme of the world the author is creating. Think about some of your favorite books and the names of the different characters and then ask yourself if another name would suit them? The answer should be no, because that character will always be (insert name here). To give you some examples from Dividing Eden, I am going to list the names and their origin if they have one: Carys(Welsh), Andreus(Greek), Ulron(no origin possibly LOTR inspired), Micah (Hebrew), Betrice (obviously inspired from Beatrice, Italian origin), Imogen (Celtic), Jacobs (Anglo Saxon), Montero (Spanish), Oben (Norse), Triden (New Zealand), Varne (English, Norman Origin) Cestrum (Greek), and Ulrich (German). Some of these names sound really cool, but that’s where their appeal ends. I mean they are so out of place and honestly confuses me as to what kind of world the author is building.
I am going to go over the plotting, trust issues, and trials now. Right from the start of the book you already see what an amazing sister Carys is to her twin brother. She hides his secret for him by causing negative attention to herself and is constantly beaten for it. His BIG secret ends up being that he is “cursed”, by what appears to be heart issues. Apparently, his weak heart is secretly medicated and kept secret because any weakness shown is cause enough to overthrow the current Royal family (Fragile rule, no?). For me, this was a very weak plot “twist” or “revelation”. Now back to what I was saying about Cary’s being an amazing twin sister and person. She apparently is a skilled athlete and expert blade thrower. She must hide these talents because she is just a girl and part of the royal family. At least we can see that the world the author is building is a sexist one, so I’m going to imagine a Victorian type era. You see the love and loyalty she has to her twin throughout the book. When it comes to Andreus POV, he is a dog. You come to find out that he has slept with half the females of the court including his brother’s FIANCÉ! He allows his sister to help him hide his secret and lets her take the beatings she doesn’t deserve. The Kingdom loves him because he is very smart and a talented electrician. Yes, I said electrician. So, Just to get a quick recap on the world being built, it is sexist, superstitious, but hey they got electricity! (WHAT?!) The SINGLE and ONLY redeeming quality he had was that he rescued a young boy whose family outcasted him because they felt he was cursed. Yeah, the world they exist in is a very superstitious one.
On to the trials. The trials consisted of an archery contest, a combat match, an underwhelming race with “dangerous obstacles”, a surprise test of character (I’m going to elaborate on this “test”), and finally another race that starts by climbing down a very high wall. Oh, and one thing you must know about these trials is that the winners are determined by the crowd’s vote; a blue flag for Carys and yellow flags for Andreus. Again, you see Cary’s loyalty to her brother, as she tries to lose contest after contest and even saves her brother from a would-be assassin. However, Imogen, the seer who Andreus is “deeply in love with”, tells him that his sister was the one who sent the Assassin and HE BELIEVES HER! He doesn’t, even give his sister the benefit of the doubt, but quickly turns on her! The surprise test of character at the ball really made Andreus’ character development combust into oblivion. The Elder’s and the guards OBVIOUSLY framed a poor starving boy of 12 of stealing. Cary’s called them out on it stating how the guards should be punished for allowing a little boy to “sneak” in after an assassination attempt had been made on the Prince. She also asked the little boy to share his side of the story. The boy told her how he was invited and told there would a lot of free food. Cary’s decision was to free the child. Andreus on the other hand demanded the child die for his thievery. According to the author his judgement was clouded because of his deep desire for the Throne, he did not really want when the book started. They cut the little boys head off in the middle of the ballroom. It was definitely a shock scene and man I was shocked and baffled at the sudden escalation of events. Needless to say, Prince Andreus is a complete tool! This character development just made no sense and felt rushed. Just like how the show Game of Thrones ruined Daenerys’s character when they randomly made her the “Mad Queen”. (UGH!!!!!)
Finally, we come to the last trial and end to this tale. So just to quickly wrap up I’m going to share some spoilers. Before this final trial Carys tries to meet up with her brother to sort out the hostility he has towards and to her warn him that (SURPRISE) Lady Imogen is working against them both. Instead of seeing her brother, Lady Imogen shows up instead and tries to kill Carys. Carys in complete self-defense kills Lady Imogen. Don’t worry readers, there is a witness. Oh wait, the witness ends up being the little boy the Prince rescued at the start of the book who is now terrified of Andreus since he had the other boy beheaded. The boy relays what he thought he saw and of course Andreus now wants to murder his sister to avenge the woman he loved. As they climb down the wall, there is a moment where Andreus gets stuck, Carys the always loyal sister, helps free his leg and when she does, BAM! Andreus kicks her off the wall and Cary’s falls. Before she hits the ground, the author throws another random twist to her tale that had little to no build up, Carys can control the wind and it slowed down her fall somewhat. She was still battered and bruised but alive. Her brother looks at her and runs into the dangerous forest where the dangerous Xhelozi lurk in the shadows. He runs to complete the trial and retrieve the crown the Edler’s hid. Carys runs after him and all that is heard are her bloody screams that her twin brother ignores. The body found is mangled and ripped apart by the claws of the Xhelozi. But don’t worry the author has one last random twist to throw in! Carys has faked her death and was saved by her new wind powers. Sorry I was just not feeling this book. It was messy and disorganized and could have been done a lot better. A lot like this book review. HA! (I had to poke a little fun at myself, I dislike having to write negative reviews) Anyways, the trials could have been more intense and had a bigger part of the story. The character development could have had more depth. This is just my opinion and though I do not believe in “DNFing” books, that doesn’t mean I continue the series. I finished this book, but I will not continue the series. Did any of you that read this book and feel the same? Did you love this book? Tell me your thoughts and opinions.