Once upon a time there was a coffin, an evil stepmother, and a girl destined for greatness.
Serena Smith is unusual. Growing up as an outcast in her backwoods village, her life is grim and hard and lonely. Then, on her eighteenth birthday, she is given a magical heirloom and suffers a heart-breaking loss. Still reeling, she is forced into exile, snatched by slavers and condemned to a lifetime in chains.
Dragged to Aldar, a fae kingdom ruled by a tyrant witch, Serena soon discovers the embers of a forbidden love, and meets fellow exiles, each with their own secrets. As the lives of warriors, rebels, and witches clash, they discover a shared destiny. For only together, and with Serena’s newfound gifts, can she and her companions escape a cruel master and survive a realm of monsters and spies, while building the flames of a revolution.
A Kingdom of Exiles is the first in Outcast series by S. B. Nova that follows our main character Serena as she is exiled from her village for supposedly being a fae changeling. Locked up in a cage in the woods surrounding her village, Serena is saved from the clutches of Gus by a fae seeking to capture and take outcasts to the fae world of Aldar. Upon entering this realm, Serena begins to realise that she is stuck there with no way of escape and must make what she can of the situation she has been given. As she makes new friends, and attracts older brooding male fae, Serena starts to unravel the truth about her Mother, the necklace she has inherited, and her lineage.
No word of a lie, I finished this book within two days and I could not put it down. I even risked being late into work at one point I was that hooked by the characters, the story-line, and the writing. This novel is perfect for adults who miss the fast-paced action, the frowned upon love, and mystical fantasy of young adult novels – though this is not in any way a young adult novel.
Though it possesses all the characteristics, Nova does not shy away from triggering scenes of rape, or subtly imply sexual relations between characters – something you would see in young adult novels. I felt that this worked well within the novel, helping to identify the character of Serena and allow her to develop and learn from those within her past. From these moments, Serena becomes a compassionate and empathetic person who just wants the best for everyone. She is the kind of person that does not like to leave anyone behind, but must learn that you must pick and choose those you help and those you hinder. But it is also the people that she meets that help her to flourish into the woman that she becomes: a woman that knows her own mind, understands when the right move should be made, and to assess the people around her to better understand their motivations. All of this allows her to keep going and persevere, and proving that she is not a person to underestimate.
There is a lot going on in this novel and Nova does not reveal it all in one fell swoop, but drip feeds the information to be unveiled as and when it is needed and by the character appropriate for the job. As more information is imparted, you begin to understand how fragile the world of Aldar is and why the fae people are as they are. As to be expected within a sequel, you do finish the novel with some questions to be answered and I believe Nova will reveal the answers as we travel further along Serena’s chosen path.
I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who is/was a fan of young adult and/or fantasy. The writing is vivid yet simple and each character slowly develops based on the actions and consequences of everybody else. I have always held by the opinion that if an author can submerge you so deeply within a novel that you deeply feel an emotion, then they are skilled in what they do, and Nova is no exception to this rule. I found myself losing track of time but, the biggest tell was that I found myself shedding a few tears over a certain moment close to the end of the novel. If that doesn’t sell the novel to you – what does!