Review | Hidden - Megg Jensen

Series: Dragonlands #1
Publisher: All Night Reads
Release Date: May 23, 2014
Page count: 314
Genre: High-Fantasy 
Age bracket: New Adult
Source: NetGalley

No one ever returns.

From Goodreads:
The mystery enshrouding Hutton’s Bridge is as impenetrable as the fog that descended at its borders eighty years ago. Each year, three villagers enter the mist searching for answers. No one ever returns.
Then a dragon falls from the sky to the town square, dead—the first glimpse of an outside world that has become nothing more than a fairy tale to Hutton’s Bridge. Except to Tressa.
 Tressa grew up with Granna’s stories of the days before the fog fell. When Granna dies, leaving Tressa without any family, Tressa ventures into the fog herself, vowing to unravel the foul magic holding Hutton’s Bridge captive.
 What she discovers beyond the fog endangers the lives of everyone she loves.
~ • ~
*Note: Contains spoilers

Eighty years ago, the village of Hutton's Bridge became completely surrounded and locked in by a deadly fog. On the day the fog arrived, all of the village's adults simply vanished, leaving children to fend for themselves; Sophia was one of those children.
Now, Sophia is an old woman and the village Elder. Every year, she picks three chosen ones to venture into the mist and, with no exceptions, none return. No one knows what awaits in the mist -or if there is even anything beyond.
Sophia knows she doesn't have long left to live; her health is rapidly deteriorating due to illness. She has envisioned that her only great-granddaughter, Tressa, will enter the fog and be the first to return triumphantly. Sophia's final wish is that, this year, Tressa will be one of the chosen three.

Following Sophia's death, a plague sweeps through the village. Although the newly-appointed Elder has overruled compulsory missions into the mist, Tressa is now even more adamant to leave to find a cure for the outbreak. Along with her friends, Bastian and Connor, Tressa leaves, and what she finds on the other side of the fog is far more dangerous than what she was ever prepared for.

Okay, when I started this book, I was intrigued. Actually, I was very intrigued. It's got a decent premise; it's an epic fantasy and it's got magic and dragons. Sounds like it could be everything I love, right? Right. But -here comes the but- what started out as a promising story quickly became engulfed by cringeworthy forbidden romance, not-all-that-great writing, and world-building that was extremely lacking. It turned out to be a not so pleasant read that left me very disappointed.

Let's start with the writing. For one thing, there are numerous spelling and grammatical errors, and I was far from impressed. Usually I can overlook minor errors but these were common occurrences right the way through the book. Surely a reread of your own manuscript and the help of an editor or even a beta reader would've solved these problems.
To keep to to the topic of the actual writing, to me, the dialogue felt extremely unrealistic and over the top. Some of the descriptions and things the characters come out with are so chauvinistic and crude that it honestly made me shudder in disgust. I'm aware now that Hidden is New Adult and not YA as I'd first assumed -that's okay, I'm slap in the middle of that NA age bracket so I'm not too young for the content- but still, at times, it was just far too vulgar for me and I'm far from being a prude.

If you follow me on Goodreads, you might have noticed that I've said many, many times, to enjoy a book fully I need a good character I feel I can relate to, empathise with, or root for their cause. The only emotions that Hidden's characters evoked in me were negative ones.  
The main protagonists infuriated me more and more as the story progressed. I neither particularly liked nor disliked Tressa; I felt no sort of connection to her whatsoever. Rather than doing an awful lot of useful thinking, it seems she spends most of the time moping about Bastian and reminiscing over however many times she's jumped his bones. Subsequently, she jumps into action without properly thinking plans through, and she makes rash decisions on a whim. She doesn't seem to get things done herself - things she wants doing either fall into place out of sheer luck or someone else does them for her. I don't think she's the kind of protagonist you can admire as a strong female.
Then there's Bastian. I didn't particularly like him from the get-go and, by the end of the book, I thoroughly disliked him. My main issue with him is explained in the next section, but he just comes across as an ass in general. He thinks of the residents of Hutton's Bridge as "pathetic" just because they're not enthusiastic about leaving the village; these are people who know no nothing of outside life - they've spent their entire lives in the village so of course they're going to be wary! Not even are Bastian's motives of helping the villager's leave selfless -he wants to make an army out of them to get Tressa back.

Now, on to my main problem. If there's one thing that puts a complete dampener on a book for me, it's a romance that takes over from every other aspect of the story.
In the village of Hutton's Bridge, marriage is a meticulously arranged thing. To avoid interbreeding and "tainted bloodlines" within families in the very small community, a woman chooses a ribbon out of the all the ribbons bearing the names of eligible bachelors she could couple with and, whoever's ribbon she picks, she will have a relationship with for the next three months. If she conceives within these three months, the couple marry. If not, the woman will then move onto another bachelor and the whole process begins again.
Tressa was first coupled with her childhood sweetheart, Bastian. However, their coupling was unfruitful and Bastian is now married to another, a spiteful woman named Vinya, with who he has a daughter. Tressa has since been declared "barren" after each and every one of her couplings has failed to produce a baby and marriage. However, she and Bastian are still not completely over each other. If they were to pursue a relationship in Hutton's Bridge without being successfully coupled and married, it would be a punishable offense.
So, as soon as they're outside of the village's limits, all the touchy-feely begins. At first there's just these sexually frustrating moments of lips touching ears when they're whispering, or one's hand on the other's lower back. Then bam, a disaster strikes when they find their way out of the fog and, although what happens is something any normal person would be utterly distraught over, Tressa and Bastian find it the perfect time to sleep together. Let me point out that Bastian is still very much a married man.
I don't know, are we actually supposed to like Bastian? Generally, the main love interest is supposed to have you swooning, right, and you're rooting for him to get together with the protagonist? Not this one. Whether he despises his wife or not, he's still a big ol' cheater. Not only that, he's a man who's willing to cut all ties to his daughter just to be with Tressa. Basically, he's a first class douche that no one in their right mind should find "romantic".

I could honestly rant for days but, here, I'm done. Let's end this with some lovely quotes that were the absolute highlights for me:

"Take it off." Tressa drowned in Bastian's blue eyes. Her fingertips grazed his wrists.
"If I take this off, I'm shedding the last of my ties to Hutton's Bridge. That includes Vinya."
"You have a daughter"
"I grew up without a father. So did you."
Wow. Bastian is such an honourable man.
~Just going to leave my wife and child to die from
the plague for you, Tressa.
Such swoon. Ugh.

A man sat atop the horse's strong back, his legs grasping tight to the horse's barrel, reminding Tressa of her own legs wrapped around Bastian a few short hours ago.
By the way, the man on the horse
is Tressa's father. Let that
sink in. Ahaha.

I feel that this is a story that could have brilliant potential and, had it been executed in the right way and if there'd been any form of decent world-building and character development, Hidden could've very well been a book I'd enjoy. Alas, unfortunately not.

1 comment:

  1. Woah, this sounds like a bit of a wreck. I usually tend to look down on forbidden romance, because there's usually a decent reason it's forbidden, and I think having a wife and child are a *decent* reason for it to be forbidden. Sorry you didn't like this one, but great review.


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