The Girl Who Fell Into Myth

If you've been hanging around here for a while, then you know I'm a fan of Kay Kenyon's excellent The Entire and the Rose and the Dark Talents series. Sometimes, it feels as though Kenyon somehow remained one of speculative fiction best-kept secrets over the years. If you haven't read these series yet, I highly recommended that you do so as soon as the chance presents itself.

I wasn't aware that she was working on something new, and I was pleasantly surprised when she emailed me to inquire if I'd be interested in an ARC of her upcoming The Girl Who Fell Into Myth, the first installment in a four-book sequence titled The Arisen Worlds. Needless to say, she didn't have to twist my arm for me to take her up on her offer. I didn't check the pub date, so I didn't know that the novel would only be published next March. Had I known, I would have arranged to read it closer to its release.

But in the end, it doesn't really matter, for The Girl Who Fell Into Myth turned out to be the weakest Kay Kenyon work I've read thus far. And given the fact that it's meant to entice readers to invest in a four-volume story, it makes for a somewhat inauspicious beginning. . .

Here's the blurb:

Yevliesza, raised in isolation in the modern world, is the daughter of witches, but lacks any magic powers. When she is summoned home to the hidden realm of her ancestors, she cannot—for reasons of honor—refuse, and finds herself in a myth world arisen from legend.

This medieval kingdom is part of the Mythos, where real worlds have emerged from myths after being driven out of earth. Yevliesza fights to find a place for herself amid traitorous allies and lovers, brutal politics, and the growing threat of war between the realms.

Yevliesza may find protection with a powerful lord if her heart can bear the penalty of his conditions. In the end, however, she must find her birthright power if she is to survive. But what she discovers is a perilous magic that, once revealed, may make her a permanent outcast.

A high fantasy from acclaimed science fiction and fantasy world-builder, Kay Kenyon.

The worldbuilding, an aspect at which Kenyon habitually excels at, was surprisingly minimalist in its approach. I must say that it was the whole Mythos backdrop, where real worlds have emerged from myths after being driven out of Earth, that made me want to read the book in the first place. Such a premise offered countless possibilities. It may yet be so in the forthcoming sequels, and truth be told the author upped her game in the second portion of the novel, but overall I felt that Kenyon played her cards way too close to her chest. As is usually her wont, Kenyon creates an arresting imagery that makes the tale come alive as you read. Alas, we learn too little to truly become invested in the plot and the characters. I understand that The Girl Who Fell Into Myth is meant to be an introduction that sets the stage for a bigger and more ambitious tale. And yet, as self-contained as it is, the novel doesn't offer that much storywise and may not tempt readers to buy the next installment, Stranger in the Twisted Realm. Which is uncharacteristic of the author, whose first volumes usually draw you in and capture your imagination.

Characterization is also an issue. Kenyon's protagonists and their supporting casts are usually well-drawn and compelling, yet both the main and secondary characters featured in this one lack depth. And that's what, ultimately, made The Girl Who Fell Into Myth somewhat of a failure to launch. Yevliesza takes center stage throughout the novel, but we never truly get to know her. We see her react and try to adapt to her predicament as best she can, but we rarely get any insight as to exactly what sort of person she is deep down inside. She spent two decades in our world. Those years should have shaped her childhood and adolescence, and made her the young adult she is at the start of the book. The death of her mother and living with a father who's gradually losing his mind also played an enormous role on the person she became, but throughout this novel it's as if nothing else ever mattered. As if the girl's entire existence up until she traveled to this magical world barely existed at all. Also, too often Yevliesza, who's in her early twenties, acts like she's fourteen or so. There are definite YA vibes, even though this is an adult fantasy series. Fleshing out her character would likely have helped me feel for her and get invested in her storyline a lot more than I did. Sadly, 361 pages later, I haven't learned that much about Yevliesza and she remains somewhat of a stranger to me. Not necessarily a good thing when she's the main character of this series. The same can be said of the protagonists and antagonists comprising the supporting cast. Lord Valenty, Dreiza, Anastyna, Nashavety, and the rest all had the makings of more memorable characters. But there was always something missing. Not enough meat around the bone, so to speak. Which, in the end, left a lot to be desired.

The whole political intrigue felt rather simplistic. The different factions/players' motivations don't always seem to make sense, and everything appears contrived to go against poor Yevliesza. Kay Kenyon has accustomed us to multilayered and complex plotlines, and in that regard The Girl Who Fell Into Myth is nowhere near on par with its predecessors. Perhaps The Arisen Worlds would have worked better as a trilogy? There is simply not enough material to make this first first volume a gripping read. Things do pick up in the second part of the novel, but it's a case of too little, too late and it can't really save this one.

It probably comes as no surprise if I say that this book suffers from pacing issues. Kenyon is not known for balls-to-the-wall works, so I wasn't expecting a fast-moving book. Having said that, I wasn't expecting the plot to move at a snail's pace, either. It's odd, because the opening scene totally hooked me up. Perhaps spending an extra chapter or two in our world to flesh out Yevliesza and her father a little more before she is taken to the Mythos would have been beneficial to the story? It's what comes after, as Yevliesza tries to cope and make sense of her new life in the land of her ancestors and tries to understand her gift/talent, that slows the book's rhythm to a crawl. Things start to look up a little as we move into the endgame, yet whatever payoff or resolution one gets from the finale is not enough to elevate this novel to another level.

As the opening chapter in a four-book cycle, The Girl Who Fell Into Myth introduces lots of concepts and ideas and leaves the door open for lots of possibilities. But the question remains: Based on a subpar effort, will readers give Kay Kenyon a chance by purchasing the second volume and the subsequent sequels? Time will tell.

The final verdict: 5/10

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