by Kristin L. Hamblin
Genre: Fantasy / Romance
Print Length: 484 pages
Reviewed by Andrea Marks-Joseph
A royal fantasy adventure with a universe-transcending fated love
Fated Sworn is a story of loyalty and leadership, strategy and sacrifice; of a generous queen and a warm-hearted thief who are fated to find each other and fall in love.
Queen Faelyn—“‘Fae,’ they called her, with pointed ears, limitless magic, and a kingdom regaining its power in the world”—is a badass leader and passionate custodian of her kingdom. Her personal life and her people have faced so much hardship in the past, but by the time we meet her in this book she has successfully built her kingdom into a place where people are genuinely taken care of.
While she’s making plans to marry a prince from a kingdom that will ensure this safety and abundance is secure for another generation, she begins to feel a mystical connection with a mysterious young man. “The echo of a familiar pain lanced through her, as if she’d been here before, losing him to an unknown future all over again. But none of that made any sense. She’d only just met him.”
Her love interest, and the second point-of-view in this dual narrative story, Bastien, is so well developed as a character that I found my thoughts drifting to him regularly throughout the days since “meeting” him. I thought of his countless (and at times seemingly endless) struggles, and the way his character allows Hamblin to portray a nuanced, accurate, emotional experience of the cost of survival, class struggle, and systemic injustice. For example, people judged the quality of his actions immediately, purely based on his appearance, and his word meant nothing in this society—“The guard could say just about anything, and it’d be his word against a thief and attempted murderer”—whether he did the crimes he was accused of and locked up for or not.
Bastien frequently has no choice in the big-picture direction and day-to-day misfortunes in his life, but he’s able to use his wisdom to maintain control of his soul. He’s brave, bold, and has lived a brutal, painful life, but he maintains his sense of humor, his capacity for faith and family. Once he meets Faelyn in his visions, he finds an even deeper purpose than the fight for survival his life has been so far. “His old goal was to survive. Now, he’d do anything to return to Faelyn.”
Bastien knows he must protect Faelyn from the great battle to come, though he knows nothing about her or the political rivalries that will trigger the battle. “His visions always came true…Whoever she was, and whenever she’d arrive, he had to be there. He had to.” Faelyn feels the same inexplicable, undeniable connection with Bastien, even before she knew his name or identity. “He was a part of her,” she tells us, “in a way she couldn’t explain.” And she loves him in a way that I, as a reader who felt a sense of honor to have witnessed his tenacity in the same way I am with my personal heroes, could relate to: “His beauty went beyond skin deep, a kind and grounded soul despite all he must have endured.”
Fated Sworn’s magic systems are fascinating and cinematic, simultaneously intimate and intense. Those with magic in this novel have the ability to sense proximity to each other, to feel the exact emotional state of others, and to manipulate natural elements with magnificent implications. For this reason, the action scenes are especially vivid.
Author Kristin L Hamblin does an amazing job conveying the depth of the pull between Faelyn and Bastien alongside the mystery of it, as well as the consequential suspicion in everyone surrounding them. Also incredibly impressive is that every single chapter—and there are sixty-one—ends with a sentence that adds a final thrilling moment to the scene, making it impossible not to turn the page.
I read this book in three sittings, and anytime I was away from it I thought of the main characters and their loved ones with fondness. For me, reading Fated Sworn was less of an urgent need to find out what happened next (between a tremendous number of twists and turns, I felt a unquestionable trust that the author would deliver an ending I enjoyed, particularly because of its romantic tropes and swoonworthy lines). Instead, I felt a great anticipation to return to this world and its determined inhabitants. This magical romantic universe where two fated lovers’ worlds fall apart multiple times before they can even take a step toward each other again.
Hamblin’s writing is so evocative that we always have a profound and clear understanding of every character’s motivations and desires. When Bastien is sent to prison, “The door shut behind him— one more door between him and all he’d ever known” the author describes the various stages of his despair as the cold loneliness of the place sinks in. The line “Then he shut the last door, the one on his heart.” affected me so strongly that I had to get up and make a cup of tea to allow the painful moment of his heartbreak to move through me.
This author and these characters know in their hearts the human capacity for brutality and cruelty, but are equally familiar with the redemptive power of tenderness and trust. Right in the middle of the final battle, after an unimaginably tumultuous journey, we experience two staggering, devastating plot twists (one for each of our protagonists) that accentuates the overwhelmingly emotional gravity of the stakes they faced throughout this book.
Fated Sworn is the final book in a trilogy, but it can absolutely be read as a standalone because of the extensive, engaging, highly satisfying arcs Bastien and Faelyn both have in this book alone.
If you’re in the mood for exhilarating combat scenes, entrancing magical training montages, high-powered elemental magic battles, desperate street crime and ruthless gang dynamics—with the shining thread of destined soulmates sparkling throughout—this is the book for you. Fated Sworn has one doomed arranged marriage, a kingdom in urgent need of an alliance, two people kept apart, and many distractions, disasters, friends and enemies holding them back from each other.
There’s a thoroughly entertaining quality to Hamblin’s writing that makes Fated Sworn an absolute pleasure to read. The novel consistently surprises you with reveals that change everything you thought was true.
Fated Sworn contains a riveting prison break, a stunning first kiss, and an elaborate heist gone spectacularly wrong. Bastien is my favorite fictional hero of the year, and Faelyn the greatest kingdom leader I’ve ever read. Their story is great for fans of the ‘destined romance interrupts a personal crisis of inherited impending doom’ energy of Beautiful Creatures, and for those who love the tension and power of Outlander’sJamie and Claire finding their way back to each other every time they’re separated. In fact, this would make an equally sensational, heart-wrenching, sexy TV or film adaptation as both of those series have had, especially with its visually enthralling magic systems.
Thank you for reading Andrea Marks-Joseph’s book review of Fated Sworn by Kristin L. Hamblin! If you liked what you read, please spend some more time with us at the links below.