A Unique Dystopian YA Story
Escape to Havenfall…but don’t drink the wine.
Havenfall by Sara Holland packs a hefty punch for a first book in a series. With as much world-building, plot-building, and character development that happened in Havenfall, there is no doubt that readers will be clamoring for more.
Maddie Morrow escapes to Havenfall looking for a safe place, and training for her dream job as the Havenfall Innkeeper. Instead, Maddie is thrust into a decade’s old plot involving the magical worlds that have been sealed off due to their violence and magic, kidnapping, and the overthrow of the Innkeeper lineage.
What would you do if you were put into a position of immense power on the night of your first kiss? On that same night, the boy who kissed you disappears, the girl you are intrigued by deliberately disobeys a curfew, and your only family is either sick, out of the state, in prison, or presumed dead?
As a teen and main character, Maddie Morrow reminds me heavily of another badass character: Katniss Everdeen. Like Katniss, Maddie has a smart mind honed through the survival of a tough childhood. Maddie has one slight advantage: her uncle is the Innkeeper to Havenfall: the safe space and cross roads to many different magical worlds that converge in the mountains in the heart of Colorado. As Innkeeper, Maddie’s uncle must hold a summit each summer where delegates from each magical realm are invited. Think of it as a UN Summit for Mystical Beings.
When her uncle is attacked before the summit can begin, Maddie is left to navigate leading Havenfall on the advice of others surrounding her. Unfortunately, she’s put in a position to put too much trust in them but not enough in herself. There are lessons to be learned here, and at times I thought that the choices and the decisions were too mature for a sixteen-year old. Conversely, there were other points that those choices seemed perfectly aligned with an adolescent girl. One thing I love most about dystopian stories is that there are so many parallels between current realities and those within the books. Sara Holland creates a world where all should be safe, but there are those who wish to take more at the cost of other delegate realms. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on the parallels, but ultimately learning to trust yourself despite what others say is a lesson that even the most beleaguered adults can draw from.
Maddie’s snap decisions ultimately results in some dangerous positions, but also allows her to make some startling discoveries. Not only about why her uncle was attacked, but also about why realms have been sealed off, why others want to keep the secrets quiet, and most importantly Maddie starts to listen to herself.
Havenfall isn’t your typical YA dystopian novel. It feels weightier, and the themes pack a punch. I like the love story angst for Maddie. I like that she was interested in more than one person, and that her story evolves so uniquely within Havenfall. I look forward to see how her story arc plays out in the next book: Phoenix Flame.
Jes is a self-proclaimed bookworm, who recently moved from the PNW back to the Midwest. When her nose isn’t in a book, she’s spending time with her husband, two kids, and her three fur babies, or exploring the globe. She also firmly believes that you should start the day with coffee, and end the day in bed with a good book.