Today’s review is of Mark of Favor by Kaitlyn Keller. I found this book via a recommendations thread on Twitter.
Warning: this review is slightly more spoiler-y than usual, so proceed with caution.
About the Author
According to her biography in the book, Keller currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two kids. She enjoys watching anime and playing video games. In addition to Mark of Favor, she is the author of a YA fantasy trilogy and a horror novel.
Mark of Favor is available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle. It is currently enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. If you prefer to purchase, the eBook is $3.99 and the paperback is $12.99, which is what I paid for it.
The paperback is roughly 355 pages of story, and includes a glossary at the front.
The cover for Mark of Favor is cute. I really enjoy the art style and the colors. It definitely drew my attention and influenced me to purchase the book. The font on the back of the paperback feels a little weird in comparison with the rest of the outer cover. 4 teaspoons for exterior design.
The inside of the paperback is well formatted. I didn’t notice any formatting issues. Scenes are nicely delineated and the font is very readable. 4 teaspoons for interior design.
Total for design is 4 teaspoons.
I was really excited about the premise of the story. A young American transfer student (who definitely doesn’t believe in Japanese myths) finds herself chosen to be the bride of a powerful Yokai. I can think of works of fiction with a similar premise. The first thing I thought of was actually a webtoon called Ghost Wife, although the similarity is very surface. Nonetheless, I found the premise intriguing. 4 teaspoons.
I did not like the main character, Ember Lockley. Her personality rubbed me the wrong way pretty much from the start of the book. Her love for her sister is admirable, but I honestly found that to be her only redeeming quality. The negative way that she views herself and the people around her was grating from page one.
Sakuya had all the personality of a doormat. He just seemed like he existed purely as a means of wish fulfillment. After all, what young girl doesn’t want a guy who is perfectly handsome and willing and able to do just about anything to make her happy, right?
2 teaspoons for characters.
There were definitely some interesting aspects to the worldbuilding. Keller’s vision of the Spirit Realm was interesting, at the very least. I found parts of it a little off-putting for my personal taste, but it was well done. I do feel like some of it was presented in a slightly info-dumpy way. I give worldbuilding 3 teaspoons.
I was bored through most of the middle of the book. As far as I could tell, most of the conflict could have been cleared up if Ember had simply told Sakuya what her hang up was. If she had just explained her home life and her concern for her sister clearly, I’m sure they could have come to happy resolution in about a quarter of the time. The whole time I couldn’t figure out why she didn’t just explain it to him. Of all people, Sakuya ought to have a lot of sympathy for her sister’s plight.
The ending also felt super convenient and a bit “well, let’s wrap this up” rather than a logical, satisfying conclusion.
2 teaspoons for plot.
Keller has a lovely, descriptive writing style. Any time she describes what was going on around the character is when I really felt like her writing shines the most. On the other hand, I found some of the dialogue to be a bit stiff in places, but not to the point of being unenjoyable. I give the writing 4 teaspoons.
I went into Mark of Favor really excited, thinking it would be right up my alley. I loved the animes Kamisama Kiss and Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast for Spirits. I also adored Annette Marie’s Red Winter Trilogy. While Mark of Favor did hit some similar notes to these favorites, it also hit some sour ones.
There were a couple of things about Mark of Favor that really turned me off. The first was Ember’s general attitude towards those around her at the beginning of the book. I feel like several missteps were made in the portrayl of her character and her hurt. Perhaps showing rather than telling her terrible home life would have been more impactful than showing off her teenage disdain for everything else around her.
My second issue with the book was how we never actually meet the sister until the last quarter of the story. It’s hard to empathize with Ember’s emotional bonds when the reader hasn’t been given a chance to form those bonds themselves. The whole conversation between the sisters when Ember and Sakuya visit feels stiff and contrived. It had zero emotional impact for me. This combined with how much Ember lingered over that point instead of just discussing it with Sakuya just left me irritated and bored.
I really, really wanted to love this book. And there were moments where I found it entertaining. However, all in all, it just wasn’t the enjoyable, romantic read I was hoping for. I am unable to give it more than 3 teaspoons.