May 30, 2016

Under the Trees by Ashley Maker | Cute characters who ignore politics

Under the TreesUnder the Trees
By Ashley Maker
Published March 21, 2016
232 pages
Young Adult, Romance

This book was provided to me from YA Bound Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. I swear on my bookshelf that this has not affected my opinion of the book.

Desperate to prevent an abusive arranged marriage, Princess Araya flees to a neighboring kingdom, only to land at the mercy of the impulsive Crown Prince Thoredmund, who provides refuge in a secluded forest and teaches her survival skills. Her surprise at the unexpected hold the prince has on her heart mirrors his shock at falling for the one girl he can’t have. 

As the young couple’s feelings for each other grow, the fragile alliance between the two kingdoms threatens to break apart. With a vengeful duke and an enraged king fast on their trail, Thor and Araya must decide how much they’re willing to risk for love. 

Even if staying together means starting a war.


Even though Under the Trees is not the most unique book in the world. The politics were thrown aside for the romance, but I think that the characters redeemed the plot somewhat.

That being said, the characters were the highlight of the novel. This is a very character-centered novel, which I normally do not have any qualms about. Unfortunately, I found myself wanting a much bigger picture of the world that Araya and Thor lived in besides the trees they were hiding in. I wanted more of the political intrigue that was hinted at, but never elaborated on. I want to know why the kingdoms were even fighting in the first place. Without knowing the full story behind the feud, it was extremely difficult to involve myself in the story. 

Unfortunately, I do not think that a book can survive on its characters alone. It's like trying to eat a PB&J sandwich without the peanut butter or eating cereal without milk. There has to be something for the characters to do, for them to think about, and to fight for. Most of the time, this is revealed in the plot, which was definitely lacking in Under the Trees.

I just wished there was more of a plot besides forbidden love. There was so much potential for a heavier plot, but I felt that all of the politics was thrown together and stuffed at me instead of developed. There were a couple of incidents that came at me with no warning, so I was not prepared to digest it. Araya's family dynamic, especially her brother's story and the reason behind his shocking actions at the end of the novel, should have been explained more in context of the story instead of just serving as shock value. 

On the other hand, I did find myself enjoying the growing relationship between Araya and Thor. At first it seemed a little insta-lovey, but it definitely redeemed itself at the end. They worked so well together and I loved how their relationship grew instead of stagnating. 

The ending was absolute perfection, in my expert reader opinion. It did not exactly wrap everything up with a pretty bow, which I really loved. It was realistic and believable. Most of all, it gave me hope. It showed that Araya and Thor still had things to work on, but they were willing to put in the work. To me, that is an important theme that is not normally touched upon in YA novels now. Couples just kind of get together and stay together by chance or luck, without really having to work for anything. But, I am glad to say that Under the Trees avoided the relationship complacency very well.

Under the Trees is more of a fluffy romance featuring a bad case of forbidden love than the novel of political intrigue mixed with romance that I was expecting. Personally, I like an even mix of character romance and action-filled plot, but Under the Trees definitely favored romance. I really wanted more from the plot and the politics. 

I would recommend it if you are looked for a light, mind-numbing romance with a cute prince, but I would avoid it if you are looking for anything more.

Have you read Under the Trees? Are you planning to now? Do you prefer more romance or plot in books? Do you like character-driven novels more than plot-driven novels? Why are my analogies always related to food?

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