4.5 Stars (rounded up to 5 stars for those sites that use star ratings)
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Group, Imprint
Date of publication: June 5th, 2018
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Sweet Black Waves
Sweet Black Waves – Book 1
Book synopsis (from Goodreads):
Not you without me, not me without you.
Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.
As a best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what’s right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved.
Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen. For fans of Graceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance.
I can’t even begin to explain what I felt about this book. My emotions were all over the place. I can only remember one book that affected me that way and it ended up being my all-time favorite book. Sweet Black Waves is a close second to that book.
I requested and got this book because it was inspired by the tale of Tristan and Eseult. But, as I got to reading it, I realized that the author used a lot of Celtic influence in the book. I was thrilled. I am a huge Celtic mythology buff and to see those influences used in the book made me like it even more.
Branwen was the star of Sweet Black Water. She had suffered so much loss in her life. I was surprised when she decided to rescue the man in the water. I was even more surprised when it was a man from the kingdom that hers were warring with. She hated them with a passion. What also caught me by surprise was when she started to fall in love with Tristan. While I saw it coming, I wasn’t expecting it.
I liked Tristan. I still feel that he is Branwen’s true love. I do think that he should have been more truthful with her at the beginning when he was in the cave. But in hindsight, would that have changed anything? I don’t think so. I do think that he pushed Branwen too hard to acknowledge their relationship. I do like that he saw the person underneath every shield that she put up. Even when she started coming into her power, he loved her unconditionally.
I didn’t like Eseult. She rubbed me the wrong way right from the get-go. She came across as spoiled and impulsive. She was willing to ruin a peace treaty between the two countries to be with the man that she “loved“. She did everything in her power to make the journey to Kernyvak as uncomfortable as possible. I wanted to slap her into next Tuesday the whole book but the end, I wanted to pummel her. She didn’t deserve Branwen at that point.
I thought that the romance between Branwen and Tristan was sweet. From the get-go, their feelings for each other couldn’t be hidden. Even the Queen noticed when Tristan formally introduced himself to Branwen. I do wish that it wasn’t a secret romance. But, it would have been dangerous for both Branwen and Tristan to be with each other. They would have been killed. Of course, what happened on the ship puts a huge damper on their romance.
While I understood why the Queen and Branwen did what they did, I didn’t understand why Branwen had to wear it around her neck. That was asking for trouble. I would have thought that she would have packed it with her belongings. Makes sense. But it also makes sense for her to wear it around her neck.
The end of the book killed me. While I figured what was going to happen, I wasn’t expecting it to hurt me as much as it hurt the characters. I actually cried from the point Branwen stumbled upon it to the end of the book. My shock took a while to get over too. I loved the choice words she had for those involved. But I also loved the promise that Tristan made to her. Makes me feel that there is hope.
What I liked about Sweet Black Waves:
A) The Celtic influence throughout the book
B) The phenomenal world building
C) The 3D characters
What I disliked about Sweet Black Waves:
A) Eseult. Couldn’t stand her.
B) The end of the book. It killed me to read
C) What Branwen wore around her neck. It was trouble.
I would give Sweet Black Waves an Older Teen rating. There are sexual situations and violence. But no language. I would recommend no one under the age of 16 read this book.
There are trigger warnings. They would be attempted rape, attempted suicide and assault. If you are triggered by any of those, please do not read the book.
I would recommend Sweet Black Waves to friends and family. I would include a warning about the trigger warnings. This is a book that I will reread.
I would like to thank Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, Imprint, and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review Sweet Black Waves.
All opinions stated in this review of Sweet Black Waves are mine.
**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**