This is only my second book review on this site and I think you can accurately guess at my preferred reading genre: fairy tale reimaginings. There are so many out there that it can be a little overwhelming to choose where to start. And, lets face it, some of them can be on the more, ahem, raunchy side. PATHWAYS by Camille Peters, while not a (ahem) raunchy romance, still has a love story woven within.
Let us begin with its synopsis, straight from the Amazon Kindle store: “Eileen has never been interested in love. Ever since her father’s abandonment, she’s vowed to never experience such pain again. But the enchanted forest has different ideas. When the continuously shifting pathways lead her to a mysterious stranger, Eileen finds her promise to fiercely guard her heart increasingly difficult to keep.
One night when she becomes lost in a storm, the enchanted forest’s pathways lead her to the castle, home to the kingdom’s Dark Prince, where Eileen finds herself entangled in what many consider an opportunity but which Eileen believes to be a curse: competing for the Dark Prince’s hand through a series of tests that judge one’s royal worth. Eileen is neither royal nor interested in becoming a princess. But the mysterious stranger she met in the woods has his own reasons for helping her succeed, although the cost of his assistance may be too high: that of Eileen’s heart, the one thing she’s vowed never to give.
Magic lives in Eileen’s land, along with a poisonous Prince who rules it. The pain of her father’s absence is evident in both Eileen and her mother, a pain which affects them each in different ways. Eileen meets danger fairly quickly, opening up intrigue and fear and mystery early on. Hints of inspiration other fairy tales peek through – Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty – through the descriptions of the Forest and Eileen’s conversations with her best friend, Rosie,
The pacing slows and we meet Aiden, the perfect stranger. His role – be it antagonist or protagonist – is quite unclear. He asks Eileen to spend three days with him in the Forest. With mystery finally afoot and a best friend urging her on, Eileen gives in to a near perfect stranger’s tantalizing request.
Throughout the story you swing back and forth between wanting to know what happened to Eileen’s father and naught wanting to. It’s almost as if that’s where the true mystery lies, rather than the actual story that’s told. Without knowing the author on a personal level, I also wonder if there’s a real life connection somewhere in her prose.
The plot picks up a bit in the second half of the book, where the “princess competition” trope is reintroduced from its slight mention at the beginning of the story. By the time you have girls seeking attention of a prince, the reader’s quite forgotten about it.
The competition trope, while being a catalyst for story advancement, also seemed to take a back seat. I did long for a bit more adventure and a bit more cattiness among the other princesses. What’s missing from the plot line is a true villain, as the story never quite picks up speed after chapter six. As much as I wanted to be drawn into the romance, I couldn’t get on board with Aiden.
PATHWAYS’ true strength lies in description. I could easily picture Eileen’s house, the scenes with her mother and the Forest. What lacked was further plot development and an uncertainty with Aiden’s character. Several supporting characters head more development than he. And it seemed as though more knew Eileen and Aiden’s secrets than they could keep under control. Still, one couldn’t help but root for Eileen, root for her heart to change, and root for a happy ending. Supported by a cast of loyal characters, Eileen finds that her strength doesn’t have to lie with constant snark but through learning how to trust once again.
Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars