A Deal with the Elf King

Title: A Deal with the Elf King
Author: Elise Kova
Genre: Fiction/ Fantasy/ YA/ Romance
Source: Kindle Recommendation
Rating: 4/5

Favourite Quote: ‘Nature requires balance.
It’s because of me that the seasons will turn in Midscape – there can be life itself.
“You are my antithesis, Luella. You are the queen of life.”
“And you are the king of death,” I whisper, staring up into his frozen eyes. “Good to know that we were never meant to get along.”
A flicker of amusement alights his eyes.
“So you understand, now,” he says. “You cannot be free of this any more than I can. We are held in tandem, you and I.’

Luella worked hard to be where she is, a qualified herbalist in medicine to help the people who have given so much to see her succeed. With her shop full of medicines and her endless patients relying on her help, she has no time to think about anything else. Even the inevitable Elf King and the agreement her kingdom has to the world beyond the Fade. A woman born of magic every hundred years must stand by the Elf King and become the Human Queen to keep the balance and unity between both worlds.
Except the one that has been born of magic has yet to emerge, and the Elf King is becoming impatient.
No one expected him to show up to collect her himself, and no one expected him to set his sights on Luella who has passed the age of magic. Discovering her magic was being hidden and suppressed by an enchantment surprises the both of them, but when Luella find herself pulled away from her family and patients who have relied on her for too long, she can’t help but feel her duty divided when she quickly realises her new role in the elven world is more than to be a pretty face at the side of it’s King.

‘”I should keep many things in my castle under control yet they seem to delight in trying my patience.” He brings his eyes back to me. “Magic is not that difficult. I expected you to have a little command.”
“Really? Because I didn’t expect to have magic at all.” I meet his eyes again.
“Your magic is weak and the fact nearly killed you. Luella, you are a beacon of life in a world that is closer to the land of death. Midscape draws ever closer to the Veil and the Beyond than it does the Natural World. That makes you an easy target here – we all desire that which we cannot have, even magic itself. And you are the embodiment of all that has been taken from this world.”
“I would’ve appreciated this explanation from you earlier,” I mutter.
“It is not usually the king’s job to give.”
“Nothing about this is usual!” I throw out my arms and gesture to the room around us.’

I’ve read quite a few Hades and Persephone retellings lately, which is probably why this book came up on my recommendations, and I have to say, I was impressed. I really enjoyed the plot of this book, it kept me on my toes wondering what was going to happen around every corner. I loved the idea of the worlds divided, the ‘natural world’ full of life, the ‘beyond’ full of death and the magical world in between full of elves, fae, vampires, mer and other mythical beings with the Fade as a barrier between worlds. The idea that the Human Queen herself is life and the Elf King is death, and together they sacrifice part of themselves to bring balance to the worlds around them since it was divided by their ancestors three thousand years ago. You get it, right? Of course you do! It sounds friggin’ awesome.

I loved the scenery and how it was brought to life through Luella’s eyes, how natural the human world is, how dark, cold and grey Midscape is without her magic, and the void in between filled with darkness. The world building is brilliant and I would have loved to experience more of it. With the talk of the vampires in the mountains, the fae in the forest and the mer folk in the magical waters, it was disappointing that we never got the opportunity to see any of it, even with magic all around them.

‘”They say that the Veil that separates us from the Beyond was made by the first Elf King to give order to the living and the dead. In doing so, he severed the elves from the immortality they were given by the first gods. For this, other races bent the knee to the elves. They honoured the sacrifice of all the elves to give the final rest to everyone and proclaimed the Elf King the king of kings – ruler of all mortals.”
“So, in a way, the elves are guardians of the dead?”
“You can think of it like that. It’s part of why we were granted the ability to find the true names of people, beasts, and things.”
“Finding the names.. that’s the Knowing?”
“Yes, and it is the strongest power in Midscape.”‘

The story itself was fast paced with the urgency that Luella had three months to find a way to end the cycle of the Human Queen in order to bring back life to Midscape as the ancient power was fading, or she would never get the chance to go back to her normal life that she was fighting so hard for. So much so that it was too fast paced at times. Three months flew by and yet it just felt like she was just always in the right place at the right time to come to her conclusions along side a lot of reading. You always felt like you were left in the dark with the Elf King when it came to her discovering something new which fell a bit lacking at times. I wanted to be more involved, more engaged with their findings and I wanted it to be harder. For a three thousand year old magical treaty, it was too easy to break the void between worlds with little consequence. It was easy to predict how it would end, it was the how that kept me going.

Luella was an interesting character, she knew what she wanted and went for it. She studied hard and earned the respect of those around her, always putting others before her and making it her duty to pay back everything they’ve given her, was her dream, her purpose. She spoke so much of duty yet continued to fight against her new role at every turn in order to go back, even when she knew she was a part of something bigger than herself and felt it justified for the future of all Human Queens. It was easy to sympathise with her since she had no time to adjust to her new life, never having the chance to prepare for being Queen, but occasionally you just wanted her to grow up and accept her new role and the role of others around her. She claimed to want respect, but did little to earn it herself by belittling the King whenever she had the chance. It was annoying and childish but I understood it well enough to let it go, knowing the author was after a love hate relationship to start with. I enjoyed it when she explored with her magic, even if it made her look weak after, she was determined to show the world otherwise which I liked about her character.

‘”Any compassion and effort you exert to know someone is nothing more than a ruse to get what you want out of those around you.”
“I am above compassion and relationships,” he seethes. “I do not have a reason to lower myself to the emotions of the rabble. I walk above them.”
“If you’re always walking above people you risk walking on them, Eldas. And that’s how you make enemies.”
“I won’t be lectured by a human who entered my world days ago. And certainly not by one who has never ruled a day in her life.”
“Good,” I say. “Because I have no interest in lecturing a man who won’t listen.” I spin on my heel and start for the door again.
“You will respect me!” Eldas shouts.
“Be someone worthy of respecting first!” I slam the door behind me.’

The Elf King was as you would expect, a dark, handsome, controlling ruler who is above it all, but underneath is a lonely man locked away in a castle looking for hope. He’s spent his entire life knowing he would be matched with the next Human Queen, what he didn’t expect was to wait around for her and having to drag her back to his castle a year late, causing the rest of the magical world to think him weak and unfit to rule. His loneliness pulls at your heart as you slowly uncover more about him and his determination to follow the traditions of the Elf King. When he finds that the one person he’s waited for his entire life doesn’t plan on staying by his side, he losing control of himself as life around him suddenly becomes unpredictable. I’ve see a lot of people dislike his character as dull and boring but honestly, I found him refreshing and more interesting for his shy inexperience at being in a relationship and trying to gain control only to lose over and over again as he spends more time with Luella. Wife and Queen or not, it’s sweet when he’s surprised to find something more than a title in her.

But you wanna know who I loved most through all of it? Hook. A playful wolf who enjoys cuddles and belly rubs, travels through the void only to rush back to protect Luella in the wild magical world she’s found herself in. A fantastic addition to the story that was heartwarming, creating a lovely bond between them that I absolutely adored.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and whilst I loved it, the chemistry between the main characters was sometimes lacking and the story missed some finer details, I would still recommend it to others who enjoy a good retelling.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Goodreads Blurb:
The elves come for two things: war and wives. In both cases, they come for death.
Three-thousand years ago, humans were hunted by powerful races with wild magic until the treaty was formed. Now, for centuries, the elves have taken a young woman from Luella’s village to be their Human Queen.
To be chosen is seen as a mark of death by the townsfolk. A mark nineteen-year-old Luella is grateful to have escaped as a girl. Instead, she’s dedicated her life to studying herbology and becoming the town’s only healer.
That is, until the Elf King unexpectedly arrives… for her.
Everything Luella had thought she’d known about her life, and herself, was a lie. Taken to a land filled with wild magic, Luella is forced to be the new queen to a cold yet blisteringly handsome Elf King. Once there, she learns about a dying world that only she can save.
The magical land of Midscape pulls on one corner of her heart, her home and people tug on another… but what will truly break her is a passion she never wanted.

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Hey! I'm Gemma :) I moved to Japan with my husband and cat three years ago which has been one big adventure. The only downside (besides missing my family and dairymilk) is that I've moved to a country where English bookshops are limited, plus the idea of transporting so many books back home sounds dreadfully expensive. I've grown to love my Kindle which is why I'm fixated on ebooks. It connects nicely to my goodreads and netgalley account also which means I'm always adding more to my never ending list of books. I read fiction and love all things fantasy, YA, historical fiction and classics. Add a bit of mystery and I'll be hooked!

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