Title: Sweet Black Waves
Author: Kristina Pérez
Series: Sweet Black Waves, #1
Release Date: June 5th 2018
**I received a free eARC of this novel through NetGalley which does not influence my review**
Kristina Pérez’s Sweet Black Waves promised to combine a whirlwind romance and breathtaking magic in her novel inspired by Tristan and Eseult. Unfortunately, the romance was barely tolerable and the magical elements did not come into play until the latter part of the novel, but by this time, I had already lost interest in the characters. As a lady’s maid to the princess of Iveriu, Branwen knows all about duty to the crown and her kingdom. She’s grown up hating Kernyv, a rival kingdom, whose people are responsible for the death of Branwen’s parents. When Branwen saves the life of a mysterious stranger, she has no idea that her one act of kindness will change the course of her life and her kingdom’s.
There are a lot of elements of the novel that should have worked for me, but ultimately didn’t. At the heart of Sweet Black Waves is Branwen’s relationship with her cousin Essy, the princess of Iveriu. Though Branwen’s role is to serve Essy, they have grown up as close as sisters. These two characters could not be more different and while I wanted to appreciate each for their strengths and weakness, there were aspects to both of these characters that I could not stand. Essy has never fully embraced all the responsibilities that come with being the next queen on Iveriu. She is at times frivolous and selfish. I never felt that she fully appreciated Branwen and when it came to Branwen, it felt like she would let Essy get away with everything. For most of the novel, this relationship comes across as very one-sided where Branwen would give and give and Essy would take without a second thought. I really wanted to see these two build one another up and help one another grow because it’s these kind of female relationships that I like seeing.
My least favorite aspect of the novel was the romance. If you hate insta-love, stay far away from this novel. Branwen jumps from hating the mysterious man she rescues because he’s from Kernyv to wondering if he will notice her in a pretty dress after a single encounter. Still, I might have been able to get past this if we as readers had gotten the chance to see these two get to know one another. There is, however, a time jump of “weeks” that prevents this. I really wish I could have gotten to know both characters through these off-the-page interactions and I’m sure I would have been more invested in their relationship as well. Later when the novel hinges on Branwen’s feelings for a Kernyvmen and how she struggles to reconcile this with her duty to her kingdom, it was hard for me to empathize with her sense of longing and anxiousness.
It took far too long for magic to make a concrete appearance in the novel. There is a really interesting religious element to this world that is present throughout. Branwen talks of the Old Ones and the Otherworld; the queen herself has a tie to this other realm that influences how the kingdom interacts with outsiders. I found this really interesting and wished the novel had delved in deeper and sooner. By the time Branwen discovers that she may have abilities that far exceed the healing skills her aunt has taught her, I had already lost interest in the novel. In the end, not even the twist could elicit any kind of emotional response from me, save vague amusement.