The Betrothed — a trope-filled, romantic YA fantasy — is the latest offering from Kiera Cass, the author of the wildly popular Selection series. Does this book hold a candle to what made this author the household name she is today?
While The Betrothed is easy to read, thanks to Cass’ easygoing, bubbly prose, the story suffers at the hands of cliché dialogue, poor character development, and a trainwreck of an ending.
The story follows a young Hollis Brite, an aristocrat who has caught the eye of the playboy King Jameson. Naturally, she is delighted to have caught the King’s attention and enjoys the gifts he continuously showers upon her. During their courtship, a refugee family from a neighboring country seeks protection in the castle where Hollis and Jameson live. Enter Silas— a blue eye, blonde artisan who Hollis feels inexplicably drawn to.
So, when King Jameson suddenly proposes and Hollis realizes the expectations she would have to meet as queen, she begins to wonder if life as a royal is all it is cracked up to be.
This novel stars out as pure fun. Sweet, classic, tropey YA fun, just like The Selection and similar novels. I liked King Jameson and found that, despite his playboy reputation, he was genuinely kind. I also enjoyed that he was a king and not a prince, and that Hollis would be ruling alongside him as queen. In their country, being a queen was a huge deal, and they often outshined the kings themselves.
I also didn’t mind the love triangle. While I personally don’t care for Hollis as a character, I will say she read as realistic. She is a silly, aristocratic girl, who enjoys attention and both Jameson and Silas are more than happy to give it to her. Hollis and Jameson had not been an item for any significant amount of time, so it was not surprising to see her be attracted to another pretty boy who gave her longing looks.
Oh and about that “pretty boy”… Silas is about as interesting as a piece of white bread. He receives zero character development. His personality is a permanently pining, nice boy with really blue eyes (as Hollis notes over and over again). Jameson by far is a better character, despite having some of the most cliché pick up lines on the planet. Thus, when the ending came along at a breakneck speed, I didn’t feel anything at all. It felt like Cass ran out of time to write this story, so she had to rush it and cram everything in at the end. This book needed to be longer.
Lastly, Hollis’ friend and servant, Delia Grace, was by far the most interesting out of all the characters. Why Cass did not focus more on this character is somewhat mystifying. I genuinely enjoyed the moments when Hollis and Delia Grace interacted. Cass did an excellent job at portraying a real female friendship. It is not rainbows and butterflies all the time. Delia Grace had actual feelings and motives and wasn’t just the supportive sidekick. It truly kept me turning the pages.
With that, The Betrothed is not a spectacular story, nor the worst. Some moments are worth struggling through the unbearable characters (looking at you, Silas), and if you turn your mind off, you very well may enjoy Cass’ free-flowing prose about a world full of soapy, tropey teenage angst and relationships.