A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers will learn about fantasy stories about groups/teams who come together for a common goal.
Strong messages about the value of teamwork, perseverance, and courage. Looking beyond differences to what bonds people together and believing that complementary skills and diverse backgrounds are important to a cause.
Positive Role Models
Corayne is courageous and clever, curious and loyal. Dom is devoted to protecting Corayne and avenging the death of Corayne's father. Andry is loyal, brave, and intelligent; he's gentle and kind to Corayne and loving toward his mother. Sorasa is a brutally precise assassin, but she's also fearless and cares about Corayne and the mission they are all on together.
Although it's a fantasy universe, the story features various ages, race and cultural backgrounds, and different belief systems.
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Violence & Scariness
Characters are killed and severely injured in violent encounters and battles. Monstrous sea creatures eat people sailing near them. An army of zombie-like creatures kills many people. A small group of warriors kills soldiers trying to imprison/execute them (mostly with swords and knives). A man slices himself to bleed on a bed so it looks like he consummated his marriage.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Very little romance, but a newly married couple speaks of their marital duties and the groom pretends to deflower his wife by mussing her hair, wrinkling the sheets and even spilling some blood on the marital bed. There are a couple of kisses as well as references to a man's legendary dalliances and how they resulted in a secret daughter. Two teens flirt, hold hands, and exchange meaningful, lingering looks but never kiss or otherwise admit their feelings for each other. Two adult characters' perspectives make it clear they find the other attractive, but there's no spoken declaration of those feelings.
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Occasional strong language includes "s--t" and insults like "coward," "liar," "witch," etc.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink at pubs, dinners, and receptions. Guests over-indulge. Characters use poison/gas to subdue others.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Realm Breaker is the first book in the second fantasy series by Victoria Aveyard (The Red Queen). Instead of another Chosen One story, Realm Breaker is group quest tale in which unlikely heroes team up to stand up to a common enemy. The plot is a bit involved but boils down to Corayne, a young woman -- the last in her lineage -- who has a unique power to stop her bloodthirsty uncle from opening portals to other realms. Since she had no idea about her bloodline, she requires the help of six others, from an immortal Elder and a cutthroat assassin to a squire, a bounty hunter, a forger, and a cronish witch. There's a lot of violence in this series starter, and characters kill with swords, blades, poison, and their own hands. Corpse armies and sea monsters also make a deadly appearance. There's no central romance in the story, although a few romantic possibilities exist in the ensemble of characters.
Is It Any Good?
Despite a slow beginning and overlong plot, this series starter benefits from compelling characters, extensive world-building, and the promise of an even more interesting sequel. Author Victoria Aveyard knows how to build a world, but there's almost too much exposition to follow in a seamless way. Adding to the almost convoluted nature of the plot is the multiple points of view. Aveyard knows how to balance the large ensemble, but readers will still enjoy some points of view more than others. One of the villain's chapters, while disturbing, is refreshing for how frank she is about her ruthless ambition. Another stand-out perspective is the female assassin Sorasa, who has been exiled from her guild and keeps to her own morally gray code of honor. Andry defies expectations as Corayne's probable love interest. He's no six-pack-sporting alpha male; he's a soft-hearted, thoughtful, and loving squire-turned-rebel.
One of the more surprising parts of the story is that it doesn't focus on romance. The Red Queen saga was downright messy with its various romantic entanglements, so it's unexpected that Aveyard chose to focus on the character-building and plot without an overt central love story (for now). The potential is there for a few different "ships," but this is more about the Lord of the Rings-style fellowship than some overarching one true love. Those who prefer more romance in their fantasies may need to wait until the next installment, but there's more than enough flirty banter to keep readers invested about who will get together. It may take some readers a while to keep the many threads of the story straight, but once the crew is assembled and the action picks up, this book will ultimately feel unputdownable.
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