The Evergreen Heir by A.K. Mulford (Reviewed by Shazzie)

Book Review: The Evergreen Heir by A. K. Milford

Buy The Evergreen Heir here

Official Author Website

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: A.K. Mulford is a bestselling fantasy author and former wildlife biologist who swapped rehabilitating monkeys for writing novels.

She/they are inspired to create diverse stories that transport readers to new realms, making them fall in love with fantasy for the first time, or, all over again.

She now lives in New Zealand with her husband and two young human primates, creating lovable fantasy characters and making ridiculous Tiktoks (@akmulfordauthor).

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OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: A court of revelry. A bookish heir. An impending marriage. And a dark new power rising in the world…
If allowed, Neelo Emberspear would never leave the library. Reluctant to take the throne despite their mother’s faltering health, the neurodivergent bookworm craves escape from their arranged marriage to charming fae warrior Talhan Catullus. But they know their duty can be put off no longer when their mother, the drug-addled queen, disastrously lights the castle on fire.

Fighting to save their mother’s life and keep her on the throne, Neelo is astonished when bonding over the written word brings them closer than ever to their cavalier, soon-to-be husband. But the non-binary heir’s growing affections may be cut short with witch uprisings threatening to topple the entire continent.

Can Neelo claim both love and dominion before their court is reduced to ash?

FORMAT/INFO: The Evergreen Heir is the fourth book in The Five Crowns of Okrith series. It will be published by Harper Voyager on June 13, 2023, in ebook, hardcover, and paperback formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: This is the fourth book in The Five Crowns of Okrith, a series of interconnected novels. I haven’t read the previous entries, but I hear that the each of them are interconnected but can be read as standalones. That’s certainly true for this one, and it contains a very endearing romance.

It features an extensive reader, Neelo Emberspear, who is introverted and has no interested in taking over as king of the Southern Court. Their mother has arranged a match with his charming childhood friend, Talhan Catullusconvinced that they will be a good pair to rule over the kingdom as she retires. But Neelo has no interest heading the court, and neither do they think they should marry Talhan. When Queen Emberspear burns down an entire wing of the castle in a drug-addled haze, they start mentally preparing to step up to rule, and at the same time, set out to remove the brew she abuses from the Southern court.

Perhaps the only benefit in Neelo one day becoming sovereign was that they could create a new library… if they could ever settle on just one design.

Throughout the book, Neelo showcases so many bookish traits that each of us can relate to. They’d rather have their nose buried in a book than socialise with people at a party, the first things they try to save when their mother sets the place on fire is the maximum amount of books they can get their hands on. The description of his library had me seriously consider eventually having something similar designed. Even though he lives in a palace and is the heir to the throne, he has one eternal book-related problem: there isn’t enough space for his books. After all, why shouldn’t the place have more libraries than ballrooms?

You balance the weight of sorrow with all of your light. You are the most brilliant star, the brightest  sun.

The romance between Neelo and Talhan is the biggest undertaking in this book. Neelo doesn’t want to wed their childhood friend, and neither do they think the Southern Court is a good place for Talhan. It is clear from the first interaction between them in the book that there’s a lot of tension between them, and the author skilfully paces the romance in a way that tension is built right until the breaking point, and peppers everything in between with extremely swoon-worthy dialogue. Somehow, neurodivergent Neelo, who is never at ease with people and cannot read social cues, is completely comfortable with Talhan, and there’s a lot of their shared childhood experiences being revisited over their attempt to trace the supplier of the drugs polluting the minds of people in the Southern Court. What’s even better than a book with bookish protagonist? One that has the central pair bonding over the written word! And this book completely delivers on that front.

Neelo’s non-binary identity is well explored in this book, and what I loved is everyone’s acceptance of it. They reminisce on how their mother never questioned them, when faced with the reality that it’s not as easy for people in other parts of the world to be themselves, and it was nice to see this acknowledgement of how they weren’t failed as a child. There were some descriptions of food that made me ravenous, as well as sufficient of those of the places they travelled to, to make me hungry to see more of this world.

Personally, I would’ve preferred more focus on their travels to find and protect their court from all manner of threats. I found the romance subplot overpowered the rest to a point where my only concern was to see if and how Neelo and Talhan would end up with each other. There were also mentions of events or characters worked into the text that I would love to have been explored more.

CONCLUSION: The Evergreen Heir is a fun, light read that kept me turning the pages with the tension built around the main characters, and touched upon enough of the setting to make me want to pick up the previous entries in The Five Crowns of Okrith. It stumbles a bit in exploring the premise, but A.K. Mulford’s reader representation made this adult fantasy romance a satisfying read for me.

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