Isobel is only seventeen, but she’s a master at her craft. She paints portraits of fair folk, tricksy immortal creatures who cannot perform any craft of their own, from cooking to sewing to writing. Isobel is rightfully wary of the fairies, whose payments often turn sour, but when she meets the Autumn Prince, she notices something different about him. When he sits for a portrait, Isobel recognizes human emotion and paints sorrow in his eyes, unknowingly committing a crime for which the prince steals her away to the Autumnlands to stand trial.
Isobel is my favorite type of protagonist in a YA fantasy romance—headstrong, organized, and practical. She’s not normally the sort of girl you would expect to fall in love at all, much less with a fairy prince. The road to the Autumnlands is my favorite section of the book, which includes their burgeoning feelings toward one another amid the dangers like the Wild Hunt’s hounds, barrow monsters, and an earth tainted by the Alder King. First, Isobel saves the prince, then she doesn’t run away, and before you know it, they’re a team, even if she hasn’t admitted to herself that she’s in love.
If I were to change one thing about the romance, it would be that the Autumn Prince wouldn’t fall in love with the first human he’s seen in hundreds of years, as it trivializes their relationship. The inciting incident in which Isobel paints human sorrow in the eyes of the Autumn Prince doesn’t quite feel believable for me. In addition, I would prefer a backstory or further reasoning behind the law that it’s forbidden for a fairy and a human to fall in love. However, the general premise of forbidden fairy craft works well, the depiction of the fairies themselves and the Autumnlands is lovely and otherworldly, and the resolution is bigger and more satisfying than I imagined.
Recommended for fans of enchanting forbidden romance!
“No. You surpass us all.” Beside me she looked colorless and frail. “You are like a living rose among wax flowers. We may last forever, but you bloom brighter and smell sweeter, and draw blood with your thorns.”