A Deal with the Elf King is a tale about one’s duty and one’s heart. Most of the time they align, but what happens when they don’t?
We follow Luella as she is abruptly uprooted from her home and taken across the Fade in order to fill the role of the Human Queen; which was an agreement between elves and humans to keep the peace over three thousand years ago. Luella is forced to leave behind her family, community, and her duty as the city’s healer/herbologist. Once in Quinnar, she is faced with a loss of purpose, a cold elf king, and magic that she hadn’t the chance to begin learning.
However, it is Luella’s sense of duty that drives her to end the reign of the Human Queen and bring balance back to Quinnar. Only now, as she works with Eldas, the elf king, she begins to discover emotions she hadn’t felt before. Luella struggles to determine if her emotions for Eldas are due to her duty as the Human Queen or because she actually loves him. And if she loves him and breaks the Human Queen’s reign, does she return to Capton and fill her role as healer, or stay in Midscape and continue to be Queen and Eldas’s wife?
- A map!
- Solid, lovable characters
- Simple, straightforward plot
- Writing style
- Minor format/grammar errors
- Minor story consistency issue
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
The overall plot was a little fast-paced but wasn’t choppy. Events happened quickly and were resolved quickly, but the lingering effects of those events were carried on, which was nice. There was a good sense of time throughout the book as well, such as how many days passed or how many days were left until the coronation. However, I would have liked to see maybe 30 more pages added to the book to smooth out those fast-paced areas a bit more, but that’s a personal preference more than anything.
The plot goes 1) Luella and Elda’s romance, 2) breaking the Human Queen’s reign, and 3) Harrow’s illness/Aria’s role in regaining fae lands.
Kova does a stellar job at balancing all three of these plots and subtly foreshadowing Aria’s role in Harrow’s illness, Luella’s attempted kidnapping, and the overall goal of regaining fae lands taken by the elves thousands of years ago. I figured early on that Luella and Eldas were endgame and that Midscape’s reliance on the Human Queen for life and balance would be broken. However, I was not expecting the subplot of Harrow/Aria to come in a drive the wedge between the two at the very end; pushing the book into the final stages and keeping us all on the edge of our seats.
There was at least one inconsensettancy or unclear point in the plot and it only deals with how many days have passed. When Luella first sits on the redwood thrown, she’s out of commission for a while. Eldas comes to check on her and ultimately decides to help Luella learn to control her magic, but only after two days of rest. However, in the following chapter, we see Luella practicing magic with Eldas the very next day. I’m not sure if this was merely glossed over or if I missed something, but I did re-read that portion a few times.
Before getting into each character, I want to state this: these characters were solid and lovable, besides Aria. Their arcs, actions, and general personalities were strong and well written and thought out. They felt believable and real, which can be hard to do sometimes.
Luella is a strong-willed, logical, and duty-driven character. She starts off as a one-track-minded person but quickly becomes more as she starts to question her wants and a potential new purpose. At first, she came across as inauthentic and immature, but as the story progressed, I realized that Luella was very grounded in herself, her abilities, and what she wanted in life. She has a go-get-’em attitude and doesn’t take disrespect lightly, which lends itself to her small-town upbringing.
She fights for the right to choose what she wants in life and keeps a logical mindset when trying to determine if what she is actually feeling for Eldas is due to a Stockholm syndrome-ish situation or if she does love Eldas for who he is. It’s admirable that she realizes that this is a possibility and looks to combat it by seeing how she feels after ending the reign of Human Queens.
I loved seeing her growth throughout the book and her finally accepting her feelings for Eldas. Her journey, though fantastical, is relatable to many and was portrayed in a realistic way. It was refreshing to see a strong female main character in such a romantic novel as this. From other books that I have read, authors tend to lean more into the Stockholm syndrome-ish plot a bit more.
Eldas starts off as a cold and indifferent elf king. But we quickly realize that this is not the case. He is chained to tradition and duty, which he dislikes. Once his expectations of Luella, or the Human Queen, were not met but instead replaced by a firey and dutiful woman, Eldas begins to change his outlook on her. He begins to soften and open up.
We learn early on that he has lived in seclusion from the world outside the castle walls practically his entire life, in order to follow tradition. It takes a toll on him and his mental state, which we see when he is learning to live and work with Luella at the beginning of the book. After Luella breaks through his mask and Eldas lowers his guard, we can see that he is in fact a sweet man. He cares deeply for Luella, and though initially driven by his sense of duty to his wife/the Human Queen, it quickly becomes more than that.
Eldas is a man who wants to experience love and true companionship, although he had tried with Rinni. He is eager and so easily accepting of Luella and who she is that we sometimes forget, as readers, that their situation was forced.
Kova does a fantastic job of switching between his facade and authentic self as the plot progresses. Eldas is a complex man, wound in layers of societal expectations and duty.
Hook was an interesting part of the story because at first, he seemed like a random animal from the Fade. However, once we learn that the Fade is deeply connected to Eldas, the symbolism and connection between Hook and Luella was a great tie-in and indirect way to show that Eldas has a more lovable side that Luella already loves.
He was a good companion and was a source of comfort for most of the book, especially for Luella being in a foreign world. Hook was also used to drive the plot in small sections throughout, and provided a nice break up of serious moments.
The only question I have is: if Luella saw Hook’s eyes when she was younger in the forest, what did that mean besides the obvious she’s the Human Queen? Is there another connection to Eldas Kova is trying to bring forth or am I just reading too much into it?
Throughout the book, there were a few instances of format or grammar errors— misspelled words, missing commas, weird wording/sentence structure, etc. There were multiple times where I had to re-read the same sentence over and over again to figure out what Kova/the character was attempting to say. So it made reading in some sections a bit tricky, but overall there weren’t too many errors that utterly distracted me and withdrew me from the world.
I also want to point out that the way Kova writes Luella’s intrusive thoughts about Eldas and staying is so realistic. Sometimes those thoughts really do creep up on you or just pop into your head when you’re ignoring your emotions. And sometimes they appear out of a pang of jealously, to which Kova mastered the art of these kinds of thoughts. I loved watching Luella battle with these intrusions because that’s really how it would happen. Once you think you figured out what you wanted to do, especially after suppressing your true feelings, those thoughts just pop back up and make you question things all over again.
Elise Kova definitely made it on my top 10 list of favorite authors. For a stand-alone, 317-page book, I was surprisingly impressed. I typically read series with 3-4 books and immense world-building (high fantasy romance if you will). So for this book to satisfy that immense itch that only a series can scratch is stellar. A Deal with the Elf King is a simple fantasy romance book that has light world-building and strong characters. The plot is solid and the foreshadowing was well placed. It didn’t feel like we were going in circles with the plot or character’s emotions, like in other books.
I wish to see more of Midscape the world Kova built for the characters (which I know she has two more stand-alone books in this world and I do plan on reading them), but I’m content with the end of Eldas and Luella’s story. It was simple and clean and beautifully written.
At the back of Kova’s book, she includes a link to her website to receive a bonus scene that takes place five years after the end of A Deal with the Elf King. To receive the scene, you have to sign up for her newsletter and then you’ll be emailed the scene. Which, in my opinion, is worth it.
The extra scene was adorable and wholesome. Luella and Eldas now have a daughter and are learning to be parents. They’re skeptical, however, if their daughter will have magic (Surprise! She does!) and are worried about how to handle it down the line. The Elf King and Human Queen have never had a child together, so know one knows how to manage such a child’s powers. At the end, we’re told that there is someone in the fae lands who might be able to help. This leads into Kova’s second Married to Magic book: Dance with the Fae Prince.
Though the scene was great, I wasn’t a fan of how we find out the two books are linked. I understand that it is a marketing ploy to gather more subscribers to her newsletter, but it could have been an epilog instead.
I will add a disclaimer here, I have not yet read a Dance with the Fae Prince, so the connection might already be explained there. If so, then there’s no harm in missing the bonus scene. However, if it is not, then that link between the two could easily be overlooked. Now, whether it is a vital piece of Kova’s stories and universe has yet to be seen by me.
Click here if you want to signup for Kova’s newsletter and receive the bonus scene. (You can unsubscribe later if you wish).
What did you think of the book? Did you like it or could you have done without it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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