Shielded by KayLynn Flanders
Princess Jennesara knows that she’s just as good of a warrior as anyone else in her country’s army, but her father refuses to send her to the front to fight. Instead, she’s sent off without fanfare or warning to wed the heir of another kingdom—while her brother goes to the front and her father prepares for trouble at home. When her caravan is ambushed and her family killed, Jennesara knows that it’s up to her to save her kingdom and uncover the truth.
This was an enjoyable, if pretty standard, YA fantasy. It’s a solid YA debut, but I doubt that I will continue with the sequel, even for the hopes that the many unresolved plot threads will be tied up.
The first couple chapters felt a bit like Tamora Pierce meets Adrienne Young, which northern warrior kingdoms and a girl who wields a sword and wants to join the battle. However, from there the similarities to Pierce unraveled, as the worldbuilding in this was haphazard and sloppy.
There’re three countries, a Continent or something that the three countries moved to several years ago (?), a Big Bad in the form of centuries old mages, and a great wood that both wanted to kill/protect Jennesara? I’ll be honest, I skimmed through a lot of the worldbuilding because it felt so samesies and bare.
When Jennesara travels to through the great woods and lands in the foreign country, I had inklings of Goose Girl, particularly the scenes with the caravan and the ambush and her hiding her identity yet her lovely nature still winning her the boy. I also had hints of Crown Duel, with the boy and his guardian escorting Jennesara while hiding their true identity.
All this is to say—I felt the influences of many other YA books, but I didn’t feel that this one stood up on its own. Which is harsh, because this was an enjoyable story. I enjoyed some of the characters, particularly the prince’s sisters, and I appreciated that Flanders was ruthless enough to murder several key characters early on (fairly graphically, too), but it was still missing something.
I think my biggest problem were the random cutaways to the Big Bad. It wasn’t necessary, nor was it done well. It added more confusion than not, and felt like a poorer version of the cutaways in Green Rider (see, another comparison!).
Is a good chunk of my annoyance stemming from the unresolved plot threads, the completely lackluster romantic interest, and whatever the fuck is happening with Jennesara’s name (getting flashbacks to Renesmee, which is never a good thing).
Anywho, this is a solid debut and a good gateway to YA fantasy.
However, I recommend reading the influencing materials and skipping this book.
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review
Shielded released July 21, 2020, from Delacorte Press