The Carnelian Legacy is a sweet romance that has both science fiction and fantasy elements that will appeal to a wide audience. It is also suitable for young adult consumption as there are no descriptive intimacy scenes, some mild kissing and mild violence (swords vs monsters). It can be described as a coming of age story, though the main character, Marisa, has already had to deal with quite a bit by the time the reader meets her, just days shy of her eighteenth birthday. While trying to cope with the loss of her father, she is thrust through a dimensional vortex and sucked into Carnelia, a parallel dimension to her own, where people still ride horses, fight with swords and no one speaks English.
Well, almost no one. And that note begins the main issue I had with this book - the use of convenience in the plot. Now, it can certainly be argued that convenience is more like Fate for the story's sake, but some of the conveniences stuck with me and bothered me in the first half of the book. Example 1: she lands in the forest in the other dimension and is found by someone who not only speaks English but who was also a victim of being pulled into a dimensional portal (so he of course knows what happened to her and can explain it to her and the reader). Example 2: she has a solar charger for her iPhone and packs it into her satchel. What are the odds? Example 3: she takes the book from her dad, which we find out later is written in another language, with her to study even though she can't read a word of it. Hint: the book is needed later on for plot. There are a few others that I don't want to mention for risk of spoilers.
These plot conveniences will probably not bother the average reader, my mind just tends to pick up on them and grumble about them in the background as I'm reading. My second gripe, which will also probably not affect many readers, is that I had the big plot twist figured out at 14%. I even wrote it down on a sticky note and made a bet with myself. I am now currently enjoying a bag of JellyBellys because I was correct.
Now that those two points are out of the way, I can get on to the good stuff. And there are many things this book has going for it that make it a very enjoyable read.
There are several great characters. Darian is a very enjoyable character who is young with a great deal weighing on his shoulders. Arrie is there to lighten the dark brooding mood hanging over Darian much of the time, and he does a good job of it. Arrie has his own sad story and I gained a real connection for him. I had a hard time connecting to Marisa for the first half of the book, but I think this is because she is almost eighteen and she is written as someone who is almost eighteen. Her voice and thoughts seemed to be spot on to me, which unfortunately caused me to cringe a few times, but I think that is because I am in my thirties. In the last half of the book, however, Marisa seems to mature and come into her own strengths and you can feel what she is going through in her heart-struggles with Darian.
The world building is excellent, which is always a big portion of my points. Koevoet paints splendid pictures in the mind with descriptions that are full of detail without getting weighted down by them. The world of Carnelia is easy to visualize and is reminiscent of the middle ages. Though there are a few spots where I felt overwhelmed by the political and kingdom explanations, I never felt so lost that it took away from my enjoyment. Koevoet also revisits these explanations so the reader isn't expected to fully recall who is who a few chapters later without a gentle reminder.
The romance, as mentioned previously, is sweet. It is limited to blushes and kisses for the most part and a great deal of angst and stumbles by both Darian and Marisa. There were a few places where Arrie is the middle-guy, playing listening confidant to both Darian and Marisa, and there are a few times where I wanted to shake Arrie and tell him to just go sort the two out. Darian, however, has his reasons, both political and morally, for not pushing Marisa or telling her his true plans. Marisa, on the other hand, is still coming of age, is in an unfamiliar place and dealing with feelings she isn't ready to fully embrace.
My favorite quote from the book:
Darian turned to leave and she watched his dark cloak billowing out behind him as he strode down the hall.
Superman, she thought. I've actually discovered Superman.
Her heartbeat quickened as she closed the door and collapsed against it. Was it only flirting, or was he really interested in her?
She shook her head. Who was she kidding? An attractive, incredible man like that would never be interested in a plain Lois Lane like her. Superman didn't exist. He was just a fictitious character in one of her brother's graphic novels.
He wasn't real.
The Carnelian Legacy is recommended for readers looking for a enjoyable, sweetly written romance with a few plot twists and those who enjoy coming of age stories. I think it is most suitable for younger readers, thought older readers may enjoy it as well if they approach it with the correct mindset. I found that some of the emotional explorations lacked enough depth to appeal to older readers, myself included. If I had approached this as an adult novel, I would have rated it at three stars due to that lack of depth.