3 out of 5 stars
Maddie’s just a teenage girl… with a mom on death row for murdering her brother, and an uncle who runs a secret hotel at the crossroads of magical lands.
The nearly unreachable mountaintop town of Haven, Colorado is home to the truly unreachable Havenfall, an inn atop portals that lead from other realms to earth. Earth, or Haven as it’s known magically, is a bipartisan safe zone in which nobles and diplomats from the lands of Bryn and Fiordenkill meet annually for trade and diplomacy. There used to be more worlds, but they disappeared. There used to be Solaria, but it was banished and its doorway sealed. Until now. Everything is falling apart, and Maddie, acting in her uncle’s stead as Innkeeper/mediator, must put it all back together.
Havenfall is entertaining. I enjoy a novel set primarily in today’s world for the ways in which it must cull modern conveniences. There’s no phone signal in Haven, it’s too remote. It’s known only to locals for the same reason. Regular people don’t go there or ask questions because they never have. Yet, in contrast, this simple setup can highlight when a plot is too convoluted, make it a little too high concept. That happens in Havenfall, too.
There’s a lot going on here: Escaped otherworldly beasts, magic behaving in impossible ways, black markets and power grabs and missing siblings and emerging teenage sexualities and, even once, a pizza party. I guess it’s both a good and bad thing the setting is very simple: it doesn’t make confusion worse, nor does it really bear it up.
Our protagonist Maddie is likeable and competent. She’s not too much of any trope, just in over her head. It’s her straightforwardness that carries this story through it’s own somewhat-mired plot. Here, Holland does a better job of bringing up important things early than in her previous duology, Everless. But there are a few too many of those things overall. More selective plotting would have benefitted Havenfall – let the well drawn characters do the work. Seeing as this is only the first book, I remain curious to see how it will all pan out, and if I’ll remember why it’s all supposed to be important.