It’s no secret that we are in the golden age of fantasy novel reveals, in both the young adult and adult realms. Fantasy novels, ranging from the glittering world of fae to cottagecore, are a dime for a dozen, a cultural movement defining the ways we expand writing genres and the need for escapist literature.
Kate Dramis’ debut novel, The Curse of Saints, is another addition to this movement. Promising an edgy female spymaster as protagonist, an insufferably charming love interest and a kingdom on the edge, Dramis’ novel should be a novel that sparkles with the typical yet cult-favourite fantasy tropes that have come into fruition over the past decade. As an immense lover of the fantasy genre myself, this should have been the perfect novel for me. However, in an era where there seems to be an endless supply of fantasy novels available, Dramis’ lacks the freshness and intrigue in both plot and characterisation necessary to be a stand-out. Unfortunately, The Curse of the Saints is boring, predictable and unrelatable.
The pacing of the story feels unnatural and messy. In the first seven chapters, I was still asking myself the same questions: who are these characters? Where is the plot heading? What, exactly, is the plot? What do these terms mean? Listen: creating a fantasy world with a unique magic system requires a heavy amount of worldbuilding, none of which was explained or well-fleshed out. I felt confused and alienated from the world of the text, the actual climactic point to set the plot in action and motivations of the character. Honestly, it felt like Dramis was making it up as she went.
The characters read as immature, impulsive and one-dimensional. The main character, Aya, is spymaster for the Queen, which feels compelling enough, if she had other traits apart from being angry all the time (for no reason?). For most of the novel, Aya spends her time complaining and hating the love-interest, Will, whose only trait seems to be that he’s handsome. The fact that these characters, both aged in their early twenties, are in the Queen’s inner circle she entrusts to protect her feels completely unrealistic. You can’t make me believe this.
The prose is awkward and relies heavily on clichés, which flattens and undercuts the writing and the stylistic choices that accompany it. Dramis repeats many phrases over and over again, with the most notable being ‘raw power’ (the use of the word ‘raw’ is never explained throughout the novel. I was again and again confused by what this actually meant or entailed). There is use of the dreaded, eye-rolling phrase which I thought was phased out years ago by mainstream book communities and the internet: She let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding. Come on: this is just lazy writing.
I understand that this is Dramis’ debut novel and that it will have its flaws. But it just feels so generic. In a way, it’s biting off way more than it can chew: Dramis packs as many fantasy tropes as possible into this nearly 500-page chunk of a ham-fisted story, most of which exist in other popular fantasy novels. It’s like Dramis brainstormed everything that fantasy readers enjoy and tried to squeeze it all in one. Wolves? A magic system? An ominous, ‘enemy’ kingdom violating a treaty held in place for centuries? Tick, tick, tick. Personally, I don’t like feeling as if a novel is trying to seize my capital interest by ripping off already-established tropes and milking plot devices because they exist on an apparent checklist of ‘things fantasy readers like’. Count me out.
Kate Dramis’ debut novel, The Curse of Saints, boasts an alluring premise, but a not-so-alluring story. Pick it up for some familiar tropes and an overwhelmingly high-fantasy world, but be aware of bland characters lacking depth and growth, mediocre pacing and confusing prose. As the primary book in Dramis’ upcoming fantasy series, I can give Dramis the debut-book pass with hope that her writing and creative scope will deepen and improve as she continues to grow as a writer. In terms of winning me over, Dramis needs to focus on breaking the mould more and stand-out characters with complexities, flaws and motivation to learn. All in all, Dramis needs to give her work the most important thing--heart.