A Confusing Romantasy: Lore of the Wilds by Analeigh Sbrana


A Confusing Romantasy: Lore of the Wilds by Analeigh Sbrana

In Lore of the Wilds we follow Lore Alemeyu, a young woman who lives within the confines of Duskmere, a town that houses all the humans in the fae world of Alytheria. Humans historically aren’t allowed to leave Duskmere—its borders are guarded by fae soldiers intent on keeping the humans inside and without access to magic—but, after an unexpected disaster hits the people she loves, Lore finds herself forcefully escorted to Wyndlin Castle. There, Lord Syrelle wants her to work in a library that no fae has been able to enter in a thousand years due to an ancient curse. Lore, as a human not from this fae world (legend has it that her ancestors came from the sky a few hundred years ago), would be able to walk through its doors and, since she can read the Alytherian language, find certain texts that Syrelle wants.

From there, the story has Lore working in the library under the guard of a fae soldier named Asher. After several chapters focused on her time in the castle, the tale then jumps to her finding a grimoire that only responds to her—a shocking development as she is human, someone who isn’t supposed to be able to wield magic. She flees the castle with the book, with Asher coming with her, as the two have exchanged lustful glances while Lore was forced to work in the library. Without getting too much into spoilers, she miraculously gets help from some of her former guard’s old companions, including another fae male named Finn, who hates Asher but grudgingly grows a rapport with Lore. The plot skips and jumps along, slowing down at some points and then whizzing by so fast at others that I had to double-check to make sure I didn’t miss a chapter. The book ends on a major cliffhanger and a shocking reveal (to Lore, at least), making clear that this novel is just the first in a series. 

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Lore of the Wilds
Lore of the Wilds

Lore of the Wilds

Analeigh Sbrana

The premise in Lore of the Wilds is a promising one, as are the hints of worldbuilding behind it—humans came from somewhere, for example, and I’d bet future books will expand on this. The descriptions of the library and the grimoire that Lore finds also spark interest. If you enjoy Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series, this premise and promise of romance might pique your interest. (You’ll also be used to books ending on a surprise plot twist and cliffhanger.) Lore of the Wilds, however, struggles to deliver on its premise; the book’s character development, pacing, and plot detract from the story and might leave you more confused than eager to find out what happens next.

The pacing, for example, is scattershot, sometimes skipping over what one would think would be crucial moments and leapfrogging Lore from one location to another, as if the story is trying to figure out what it wants to be in real-time and all the wrong turns and dead ends remain captured on the page rather than tossed or rewritten. 

Some key characters also don’t feel fully developed, which makes connecting with them challenging. Lore is ostensibly in her early twenties but reads like a young teenager, making indecipherable decisions that leave the reader scratching their heads. Yes, lots of characters make bad choices, but when done well, we understand why they do what they do, even if it’s clearly not the right thing for them. Lore distrusts and then over-trusts, and some of those she confides in (just hours after meeting them!) also inexplicably risk everything to help her without further explanation. The dynamic between core characters is also lacking, something that’s crucial to have in a book that touts its romance elements. 

Speaking of romance, Lore of the Wilds is advertised as a steaming romantasy with a love triangle. To that end, there is one open door sex scene, but that sequence feels shoehorned in at an odd point in the story. The chemistry we’re supposed to feel between Lore and Asher is also tepid. Beyond Lore’s occasional thoughts about how handsome he is, there are no moments that make any sexual tension between them feel earned. “Lust at first sight” can work, but in this case, it falls flat. And while we get an answer at the end as to why that might be, that explanation only makes the whole relationship more confounding. 

Lore and Finn’s attraction works better but happens in the back half of the book when the plot starts getting disjointed, abruptly bringing back other characters through rushed side quests and adding in revelations of horrific acts that make any steamy moments between Lore and her two men feel jarring. 

Lore of the Wilds can’t seem to decide what it wants to be—a romantasy, a cozy fantasy, a fantasy-infused version of The Handmaid’sTale—and in so doing ends up leaving all these components of the book disconnected and incomplete. Perhaps another round of editing would have addressed these issues and made it more of a compelling read. As it stands, however, it felt like various subplots and worldbuilding points were crammed into the last third of the novel, potentially because those elements come up in later planned books. It’s likely future installments in this series will make all those disparate scenes and moments make sense. On its own, however, Lore of the Wilds makes for a fragmented, chaotic read, with the cliffhanger at the end just one more erratic twist in the tale rather than—for some readers—something that creates the desire to read more. icon-paragraph-end

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