A Celtic legend gets revamped from a new POV in Kristina Perez’s SWEET BLACK WAVES!
Branwen is the niece of the King and Queen of Iveriu, cousin and lady’s maid to the lovely but petulant Princess Eseult. She’s a gifted healer, a kind protector, and someone who feels a deep connection to her homeland. But Branwen is not meant for anything more than a simple life and hopes she can help guide her cousin into the role of a graceful queen.
When a stranger washes up on the shores of Iveriu on the brink of death, Branwen knows he’s from the enemy nation of Kernyv, but she can’t just let him die. In fact, she’s pretty sure the gods are compelling her to save him. Little does she know that saving him is just the first step in unraveling a wild twist of fate. See, the stranger turns out to Prince Tristan of Kernyv, and the sweet enemies-to-allies relationship they form is clever, endearing, and precarious. With a marriage alliance between Eseult and King Marc of Kernyv looming on the horizon, Branwen and Tristan have the tools at hand to finally give peace to their long-suffering kingdoms. The old gods have warned Branwen that she’ll have to sacrifice life as she knows it for peace, but she didn’t realize just how much she’d have to sacrifice…
Sweet Black Waves is inspired by the ancient legend of Tristan and Eseult (sometimes spelled Isolt, Iseult, or Isolde) with places and some names changed. There’s lots of magic in play and I get the vibe that it wasn’t as heavily used in the older iterations, but I’m not really familiar with the original story. IT’S A MOOD. You have to be ready to feel things that aren’t necessarily feel-good before you consume this book. Additionally, this is book one of a trilogy, so you’re only getting a slice of the full scope. You can guess where things are going to some degree just from the title of the original tale, but there are still a lot of curveballs– the biggest of which being that I didn’t expect to be so emotionally invested in Branwen’s happiness.
Branwen is not in a position of power, but she’s fierce and earns respect. It’s through her healing skills and her cunning that she gets her power. I loved her! As the protagonist, the novel is clearly tilted in her favor, but I do wish we saw a more equitable relationship between Branwen and Eseult. The latter serves as Branwen’s foil and author Kristina Perez goes slightly overboard with it at times, making Eseult selfish and entitled with a venomous tongue. This would be fine if we weren’t also supposed to believe that Branwen is committed to Essy on an unparalleled level and the two are deeply connected. We’re told they’re close, but you don’t really see it in play. While she’s more self-absorbed and stubborn to a fault than truly evil, making Eseult a little less intense probably would have made their close relationship more believable.
Then there’s Tristan. *swoon* I loved Tristan and Branwen’s dynamic, as well as his genuine sense of goodness. He has a way of getting people on his side, even if it takes a little work. I flew through the pages featuring these two together, usually grinning the whole way, despite knowing that eventually, it would get complicated. Really. Freaking. Complicated.
Kristina Perez is a formidable writer who clearly knows her history and folklore, but also adds a unique flair that makes everything very readable. With the exception of Eseult, I grew pretty attached to all of the characters. You feel all of their emotions right alongside them, and while this book has a lot of feelings, there’s also fighting and magic and epic voyages.
The end of this book will leave you completely lost in your own mind, scrambling for answers. Perez ends part one at the perfect point to inflict maximum heartbreak. That said, I do think that the last couple scenes happen very quickly and should have taken a little more time to let the consequences sink in.
Now we just want to know how closely this series follows the original tale because man, I could use some storytelling twists in our girl Branwen’s favor, thank you very much!
RATING: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS
Not you without me, not me without you.
Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.
As 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 ofGraceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance.