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Book Review: Bring Me Their Hearts: A heartless story full of soul

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Book Review: Bring Me Their Hearts: A heartless story full of soul

Staff writer at the Daily Egyptian, Rana Schenke, reads “Bring Me Their Hearts” by Sara Wolf, Friday, Sept. 28, 2018, outside of the Communications Building. (Mary Barnhart | @MaryBarnhartDE)

Staff writer at the Daily Egyptian, Rana Schenke, reads “Bring Me Their Hearts” by Sara Wolf, Friday, Sept. 28, 2018, outside of the Communications Building. (Mary Barnhart | @MaryBarnhartDE)

Staff writer at the Daily Egyptian, Rana Schenke, reads “Bring Me Their Hearts” by Sara Wolf, Friday, Sept. 28, 2018, outside of the Communications Building. (Mary Barnhart | @MaryBarnhartDE)

Staff writer at the Daily Egyptian, Rana Schenke, reads “Bring Me Their Hearts” by Sara Wolf, Friday, Sept. 28, 2018, outside of the Communications Building. (Mary Barnhart | @MaryBarnhartDE)

By Rana Schenke, Staff Reporter

Zera is a Heartless, bound by magic to serve the witch who holds her heart. She wants to be free from the witch’s control, but she doesn’t think that will happen anytime soon.

Until she’s given an offer: take a prince’s heart in exchange for her own. Simple, right?

Title: Bring Me Their Hearts
Author: Sara Wolf
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Page Count: 400 pages
Release Date: June 2018
First in a proposed trilogy (second book to come June 2019)
Overall grade: A

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The best way I can describe this book is a combination of two other young adult novels I love, Kiera Cass’s “The Selection” and Jodi Meadows’ “The Orphan Queen,” with the best from both and the worst from neither.

Sara Wolf creates a fantasy world on par with that of the original Star Wars, with intricate politics and belief systems, in-world references dropped and left unexplained, and none of those complicated maps fantasy books usually have that really aren’t helpful to anyone besides the author.

The world in the book feels fully developed and real, unlike the worlds in some of the other fantasy books I’ve read. It’s also fully developed but not fully explained, which made me want to continue reading the book and anticipate the next book in the series.

The book plot has elements of both “The Orphan Queen” and “The Selection”; a girl infiltrating the royal palace like in the former, and girls competing for a prince like the latter.

This book takes parts of those books and improves on them. In “The Orphan Queen,” the cover story the characters used were pretty shaky and it was pretty surprising that it held up as long as it did; Zera’s deception is much better executed and the motives behind it are easier to identify with.

Zera is posing as Lady Y’shennria’s brother’s bastard daughter. Lady Y’shennria’s entire family died in a war years ago, so there isn’t anyone who would be able to contradict the story.

Additionally, it’s decided that Zera lived on a farm before she was “discovered,” which means she has an excuse if she makes a mistake like using the wrong fork or not knowing about royal history.

Zera is trying to get back her heart and the hearts of the witch’s other two Heartless, both children. The greater goal of her deception, which is orchestrated by the witch coven and Lady Y’shennria, a noblewoman, is to prevent another war between witches and humans.

Zera’s motives are relatable because they’re things most people have experienced: the desire to be “normal” and fit in, the desire to help family, and the desire to prevent bad things from happening around you and to those you care about.  

Something that did bother me was the scene where Zera chases a masked thief soon after arriving at the capital. It was predictable (I knew exactly who it was as soon as they started talking) and unnecessary.

I think the idea behind the scene was to add another dimension to the character right off the bat, but because their identity was so obvious and because of the way the author set up the first chapter, I had already taken the character from a two-dimensional character to a 3-D one in my mind.

I felt the author could have done something different and unique to accomplish the same goal.

She could have flipped the scene so Zera was the one caught doing something contradictory to her public persona, or she could have caught the character doing something else in a later chapter, or the scene could have been eliminated and the dimension-adding could be picked up at their official first meeting.

This felt like an easy out and slightly demeaning for Zera, since it makes it look like the only reason the character wanted to interact with her when they met officially was to keep her from spilling the secret and not because she said or did anything worth noticing.

Fortunately, the author didn’t draw out Zera’s discovery of who it was, which was refreshing because if she hadn’t figured it out, I would have been disappointed in her intelligence.

I did appreciate the romance between Zera and the prince not overtaking the plot. Yes, it’s predictable, too, but I thought it was handled much better than many of the young adult novels I’ve read.

For example, one of the main differences between humans and Heartless is Heartless can only eat raw meat, otherwise they cry blood tears, and they have a constant hunger for raw meat (including humans) that actually speaks in their minds.

If they don’t suppress the hunger, it takes over and they turn into monsters and start killing everything in sight.

So when Zera tries to distance herself from the prince, it’s because she has a voice in her head yelling at her to devour him any time he gets too close.

She’s not just struggling with her feelings, she’s struggling with her feelings, her duties, and the overwhelming urge to murder everyone in the vicinity.

Also, I liked that Zera wasn’t overly dramatic. She didn’t declare her undying love or say sweet things that made me want to throw up.

Her struggles with her feelings were more realistic than those of most fictional characters. She was constantly assessing them, weighing them against her goals and duties, and she was unsure of what she should do about them.

Another great thing about this book was Zera’s non-romantic relationships. In many of the books in this genre that I’ve read, the romantic relationships dominate the story line and the author doesn’t focus much or at all on developing the main character’s other relationships.

Zera has several interesting relationships throughout the book. Her relationship with the witch who holds her heart is complex; she doesn’t like being a captive but recognizes that the witch saved her life by turning her Heartless and is relatively lenient as opposed to other witches.

She also has a touching sibling relationship with the other two Heartless she lives with. She cares for them like an older sister would, and although I wish she would have considered what would happen to them once they were freed, she did remember they were depending on her as well.

Another strong relationship that developed throughout the course of the book was Zera’s relationship with Lady Y’shennria.

Despite Lady Y’shennria’s initial fear of Zera, they eventually bond and end up regarding one another as family.

Finally, I have to mention how refreshing it was to have a main character in a fantasy novel who doesn’t take everything seriously all the time!

Zera is witty and sarcastic, and her quips were executed extremely well. At no point did I ever get tired of hearing things from her viewpoint.

This book is honestly one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year. I loved Zera, was entertained by the concept and plot line, and am eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.

Staff reporter Rana Schenke can be reached at rschenke@dailyegyptian.com.

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