Review: Havenfall by Sara Holland

A safe haven between four realms. A girl sworn to protect it – at any cost.

44281011 Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects three ancient worlds.

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…

2.5 Stars

Hidden beneath a secluded inn, atop the Rocky Mountains of Colorado lie the gateways to three ancient realms; Byrn, Fiordenkill and Solaria. Adjacent lands of ethereal beauty, brimming with sprawling, snow-capped woodlands and windswept, storm battered plains. The Inn itself being a sanctuary of sorts.

Okay, so in theory, the premise of Havenfall promised to become my next fantasy obsession. I mean – a magical inn? Doorways to secret worlds? Where do I sign up???

And the initial setup had me HOOKED.

Opening with Maddie, our resident protagonist and inspiring innkeeper, Havenfall finds it’s footing in Denver before making the long trek through the Rocky Mountains to the sleepy town of Haven. In the span of just two chapters we had met a creepy man with a [seemingly] ulterior motive and discovered that Maddie’s brother had been mauled by a Solarian shifter before being almost run down by a mysterious girl on a motorbike.

Basically, the stage was set for what seemed to be a sweeping fantasy epic.

*Snorts*.

After that seriously atmospheric start, my high hopes were quickly dashed as the intrigue dwindled away and the story fell woefully flat. Suddenly, we were thrust into a juvenile whodunit and not even the amazing world building could save the underwhelming characters or the mediocre prose.

*Sighs*. Like, why do I even bother?

Which brings us to Maddie. Honestly, I couldn’t even tell you one thing about her – except that she was an aspiring innkeeper. That’s it. That’s all I took away from her “hero’s journey”. I mean, the whole thing basically amounted to the set up of a Love Triangle™. And conveniently, just in the nick of time for the second installment. Oh boy.

Anyway, as a protagonist, Maddie was just so utterly underwhelming. There’s really no other word for it. There was no character building or development and I found myself more invested in the side characters. Not a good sign, my friends. And it’s wasn’t that Maddie was unlikable – she’s a nice enough character, if a little bland. I just needed more complexity and substance.

But, I’m going to give Maddie the benefit of the doubt and chalk her character up to the fact that Havenfall felt underdeveloped as a whole.

Then we have the pacing. The trudge was REAL, okay? Glaciers move faster than Havenfall’s tedious plot. The fact that we, along with Maddie herself, were resigned to the inn when there were all these sprawling lands LITERALLY A DOOR AWAY didn’t help matters either. Oh yeah, spoiler alert: we never go to ANY of the adjacent worlds. Like – what? Sara, I’m going to need to teach you a thing or two about Chekhov’s Gun.

All I’m saying is I was about to push Maddie through to Fiordenkill or Byrn myself just to get the freaking plot moving.

Speaking of the adjacent realms, despite this ranting review, I do need to commend Sara’s world building. Even if we only got to learn about the realms secondhand. The idea of a Narina-esque world of snow and pine was just tantalizing enough to save Havenfall from a DNF. But hey, let’s cut the crap alright? The adjacent realms felt like a tease and Sara’s plot criminally misused the idea of said worlds. And that beautiful cover for that matter.

At the end of it, Havenfall isn’t necessarily a bad novel. It had major flaws, but there were a few aspects I enjoyed. And, this snarky review was born out of my almost seething disappointment because Havenfall could have been a stronger book. I mean, didn’t anyone edit this? How was this opportunity missed??? *Sign*. Here’s hoping that book two will be deserving of Havenfall’s seriously misplaced hype because somehow I’m still optimistic.

8 thoughts on “Review: Havenfall by Sara Holland

  1. What a shame you didn’t enjoy it! I absolutely loved Everless, but maybe I better steer clear of this one. Sorry that it was such a disappointment for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I loved Everless too, which was why I think Havenfall let me down. It’s definitely VERY different. That being said, I have a lot of bookish friends who enjoyed Havenfall. You might discover that it’s your cup of tea after all. If you do end up picking Havenfall up I would love to hear your thoughts! Happy reading! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. AGFAUYFGIYGIUG “Glaciers move faster than Havenfall’s tedious plot” – YASSSS MY SALTY QUEEN!!! This review was EVERYTHING!! For me, no amount of world building can save a mediocre plot and bland characters 🙁 And when the side characters are more likeable/interesting than the MC? RIP 😛

    In all seriousness though, I’m sorry it was such a disappointing read for you but kudos for not DNF-ing it!!

    💛 Your saltmate

    Liked by 1 person

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