BOOK REVIEW: The Wish Granter by C.J. Redwine
Author: CJ Redwine
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Warnings: Themes of domestic/child abuse and drug use
Confession: it took me way, way longer to read this book than it should have. I picked it up shortly after it came out – several years ago! – and have had it on my shelf ever since. The first time I tried to read it, it was just not the right time. I quickly dove into Heartless by Marissa Meyer instead, which wrecked me so thoroughly I couldn’t read anything else for a while, and ever since then I’ve been in and out of reading slumps.
Yet The Wish Granter has always survived the purges of my bookshelf. Something kept me coming back to it, and finally I broke down and decided to give it one more shot.
Boy am I glad I did. This one might just be in my Top Ten Books of All Time
The Wish Granter tells the story of bastard Princess Arianna Gavan, thrust into a noble role in the kingdom of Sundraille when her brother strikes a deal with the legendary Wish Granter, Alistair Teague. But all wishes come with a price, and Teague’s grip over Sundraille through Thad’s contract creates problems no princess can ignore. Desperate to free her brother, Ari seeks the help of new weapons master Sebastian Vaughn, a scarred man seeking to escape from the clutches of his horrific past, in breaking Thad’s contract.
But to break it means to cross Teague, a seemingly-invincible fae; and to find a way to defeat him puts everyone Ari loves – and Ari herself – in mortal peril. A deadly game of predator-and-prey ensues, with Ari’s cleverness and Sebastian’s strength pitted against the most powerful fae alive.
Princess Arianna is pure perfection: spirited, stocky, sly, frightened, loyal, loving. She is an excellent fantasy representation for women who are not slender, tall, and muscular, as well as for those who are not battle-hardened warriors who come to the page trained to kill. She is unapologetically herself yet open to learning, and Rewdwine infers these ideals through a character absolutely blooming with realism. Ari is strong in ways unique in this genre (as in, she’s not fearsomely brawny, but dangerously clever and devoted), and watching her learn, adapt, fail, and ultimately succeed was just powerfully moving. Redwine allows Ari to be flawed in so many ways, taking risks and making decisions that cause heaps of trouble; yet rather than wallowing in self-hatred or self-pity, Ari turns her losses to strengths and presses forward. It has been a long time since I’ve rooted for a YA fantasy protagonist this hard.
Sebastian is the other side of Ari’s coin. He is one of, if not arguably the most, well-rounded male lead in a YA fantasy I have read to date. His struggles are real and sympathetic, his past and present are a brilliant and painful blend of despair and hope; the way he cares for those who are a part of his past is both gut-wrenching and endearing; and the way he lays down his very being to protect Ari as their friendship blossoms had my stomach full of butterflies. Watching him grow through his fears of being touched and of being close to others, while maintaining his characteristic introversion, was a pure delight. We need a thousand more men like Sebastian Vaughn in YA.
Those who know me know I am a HUGE fan of a believable, healthy romance, which this book has; it also has great platonic relationships in Ari and her twin brother, Thad, and in Ari’s lifelong friendship with serving girl Cleo. Despite early-book shifts in Ari’s social status, she and Cleo maintain a bond that is just a delight to read. Their friendship makes perfect sense.
And Thad. Oh, Thad. To go deeply into this would give too much away, but Ari and Thad’s bond is cause for both a world of danger and a future worth fighting for. I adore them and wish we’d gotten even more of them on the page together. Perhaps if there are future spinoffs in Ravenspire where these two make an appearance…
TWG also has one of the best villains I’ve seen in FOREVER. Alistair Teague is wicked. He’s horrifying. He’s merciless and venomous and cruel. He’s everything a fae should be, in ways I’ve been searching for and haven’t found in my YA fantasy reads in years (there are some popular fae-oriented books that could take notes from this one, seriously!). He also has a backstory that PERFECTLY frames why he is this way, and while his cruelty remains inexcusable, the path that brought him there makes absolute sense.
Redwine deserves an award for character-building. For serious.
There’s no question that TWG is part of a larger universe of stories, if ones tied indirectly together. This book is part of The Ravenspire series, and while I have not read any of the other installments yet (next up on my To Buy List!!) I had a strong feeling that a few incidental characters in one scene were nods to past books.
Beyond that, the evidentiary worldbuilding points to a much larger-scale realm we’re dealing with; many kingdom names are bandied about in direct reference to the main plot, making the worldbuilding feel extremely harmonious while also broadening the horizons for potential future installments. Every kingdom name gave me that delicious shiver of delight that comes with well-named fantasy, and I found myself hoping to see places like Loch Talam, Balatava, and Llorenyae in other books. The way the kingdoms interact with one another is crucial to the plot of TWG, another way in which the worldbuilding absolutely sang.
As for the kingdom of Sundraille itself, where the story takes place, there is not enough that can be said for how much this kingdom glowed. From the political spectrum to the corners of its streets, from the palace to east Kosim Thalas to Teague’s villa, every location had its own feeling, its own sensations, its own awesome name!!! Seriously, I could live in this world forever.
The pacing of the plot in TWG is fabulous. It kicks off with a do-or-die dilemma and never really slows down. While there’s a definite tonal difference between the early and latter halves of the book, with one involving more research and action and the other more sneaking and reflection, both of these sections work given the dire straits in the respective halves.
For me, I loved the second half more than the first. Its setting and pacing allows plenty of space for character dilemma and introspection, and great growth particularly for Ari and Sebastian. While the cast is more broadspread in the first half of the book, the plot focuses sharply on Ari, Sebastian, and Teague in the latter half, which fits with the upped stakes and increasing danger of the cat-and-mouse game.
While the resolution leaves a bit to be desired – we don’t see much of Thad at the end, whose perspective I would’ve loved to get after the events of the second half – the plot still wraps up nicely, with a wonderful open door for these characters to cameo in future Ravenspire novels (I hope!)
TWG was the first novel I ever actually broke out my highlighters for.
You heard me, folks. I marked up this book.
There are parts I never want to forget, that I want to come back to over and over because of the emotion they evoked in me. The description is absolutely STUNNING. In multiple places, I held my breath. Everything from sunset skies to seas to fae homes and breathtaking kisses had me absolutely swooning.
The dialogue strikes that irresistible balance of wit without seeming anachronistic (something fantasy, particularly YA, often struggles to do), loading the reader up with plenty of banter, political verbal sparring, declarations of devotion, and more. There’s humor, danger, and love woven effortlessly into the descriptions as well as the dialogue. You can feel the care Redwine took with just about every word on the page.
I wish I hadn’t taken so long to read this book – but then again, it came at just the right time. The Wish Granter is fun, dangerous, romantic, delightful, devastating, and all-around wonderful. It is a perfect read and will be an excellent re-read. I can’t wait to dive into the rest of The Ravenspire series now, and I can’t say enough about this book. EVERYONE SHOULD READ IT!