Havenfall by Sara Holland

Released in North America on March 3, 2020, Havenfall is Sara Hollan’s newest Young Adult Fantasy novel. In Havenfall, Sara Holland has taken the lush fantasy that captured readers in Everless and Evermore and woven it into the real world to create a wholly captivating new series where power and peril lurk behind every door.

Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects ancient worlds–each with their own magic–together. For generations, the inn has protected all who seek refuge within its walls, and any who disrupt the peace can never return. For Maddie Morrow, summers at the inn are more than a chance to experience this magic first-hand. Havenfall is an escape from reality, where her mother sits on death row accused of murdering Maddie’s brother. It’s where Maddie fell in love with handsome Fiorden soldier Brekken. And it’s where one day she hopes to inherit the role of Innkeeper from her beloved uncle. But this summer, the impossible happens–a dead body is found, shattering everything the inn stands for. With Brekken missing, her uncle gravely injured, and a dangerous creature on the loose, Maddie suddenly finds herself responsible for the safety of everyone in Havenfall. She’ll do anything to uncover the truth, even if it means working together with an alluring new staffer Taya, who seems to know more than she’s letting on. As dark secrets are revealed about the inn itself, one thing becomes clear to Maddie–no one can be trusted, and no one is safe…

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Havenfall is one of those YA Fantasy books that either had the potential to soar, or to woefully mediocre. And to be quite honest, when I picked up Havenfall by Sara Holland, I wasn’t sure whether or not I would enjoy it. While I typically enjoy most Fantasy novels, but to be quite honest, High Fantasy is more my style, and Havenfall does not quite qualify as that that. Yet, despite my apprehensions, I ended up quite enjoying Havenfall, though it failed to dazzle in a way that will make it a memorable read. It was fast-paced enough to hold the reader’s interest, and had a great mystery filled with magic, romance, and betrayal that readers will likely simply love – yet despite all of this, the conclusion felt rushed and lack-lustre, which will likely leave readers wishing for more – and not in a good way.

“I have to focus on one thing at a time. Otherwise everything that’s happened will crash back in and crush me.” – Sara Holland, Havenfall

Havenfall has a diverse and interesting cast of characters, with Maddie Morrow acting as the primary protagonist. Maddie’s character, while initially seeming cold and withdrawn, is written superbly well. In particular, her fears and emotions feel entirely human, and throughout the entire story her decisions and feelings are shockingly relatable. From the very beginning, she struggles with her anxiety, much of which stems from the traumatic murder of her brother as child. Despite this, she regularly talks herself down from her panic, bravely soldiering on, despite the veritable crisis and potential impending doom she finds herself warding off. By her side are Taya, a mysterious new addition to the Havenfall staff who seems hell-bent on involving herself, The Heiress, a formidable and enigmatic old lady with dangerous secrets, her uncle and his partner, and her mostly-missing-in-action romantic interest Brekken.

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The setting of Havenfall is perhaps one of the most intriguing, and definitely the most magical, part of the novel. While not wholly original (parallel universes and portals seem to be growing in popularity in YA Fiction of late), Holland’s magical twist on this premise if both refreshing and utterly spellbinding. Havenfall itself in a mystical inn located on Earth, which serves as a portal site between four connected worlds – Byrn, Fiordenkill, Solaria, and Haven (or Earth). While Byrn, Fiordenkill, and Haven exist in a state of tenuous peace and general prosperity (despite the fact that most humans are utterly unaware that the other worlds exist, Solaria has been blocked off from the others because it’s full of monsters who murder people. Despite this dark history, the other three worlds collide every summer, to negotiate trades and alliances.

“You have more happy memories than scary ones, don’t you? Why give the scary ones so much space in your head?” – Sara Holland, Havenfall

And while this setting is intriguing and sure to grab readers’ attention without much difficulty, it is the murder mystery that spawns during the yearly inter-world summit that is sure to keep readers engaged. Maddie’s uncle runs Havenfall, and while Maddie hopes to one day inherit his role, she is thrown into a position of tenuous power much sooner than anticipated when her uncle is attacked, a foreign guest is murdered, and the door to Solaria is cracked upon, throwing the entire conference into chaos – and putting the safety of everyone at Havenfall in danger. The plot itself is tightly control and fast-paced, reading similarly to a Clue-esque murder mystery, with all the suspects confined to the hotel. Except in Havenfall, the hotel has a magic of its own, everyone is lying, and there are actual monsters lurking in the shadows. Readers will be enraptured as Maddie, Taya, and the others race against time to solve the mystery and save Havenfall.

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Overall, Havenfall by Sara Holland is an excellent read, with an eclectic and enjoyable cast of characters, a powerful female lead, a magical setting, and an intriguing murder-mystery laced with deceit, magic, and betrayal. Truly, were it not for the rushed and lack luster finale to the tale, Havenfall would have dazzled. As it stands, the finale will leave readers wishing for something more, despite how enraptured the story held them throughout (4/5).

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

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