Title: Haven: War of the Princes (#1)
Author: A.R Ivanovich
Published: May 26, 2011
Amazon Summary: From missing socks to missing people, nothing could remain hidden from seventeen year-old Katelyn Kestrel for long, but after locating a forbidden passage out of her isolated country, Haven, she discovers for the first time that there are some things that should never be found. Outside the safety of her homeland’s borders, Katelyn meets Rune, a young soldier who will die without her immediate aid. She never considered that helping him would lead to her capture.
While being held prisoner by the handsome Lord Dylan Axton, she learns that the outside world is rife with war and controlled by people with extraordinary powers. It becomes clear that there was a very good reason the founders of Haven locked their people away from the rest of the world. The depth of her peril reaches a fever pitch when a ruthless Commander wants Katelyn dead. Her only hope is to return to Haven, but can she survive long enough to find her home?
'Haven' was a lovely surprise of a story - it had magnificent and imaginable world-building, memorable characters, and a great storyline.
I loved how the story started off with only a couple of chapters of an "intro" (where we get to see how Katelyn's life - a quite normal one - is like in school and with friends) before she sets off one night to look for a way out of the walls of Haven, something that hasn't been done in seven-hundred years.
I thought the atmosphere of Haven was going to be a dystopian one with the controlled society and strict rules, but it was the contrary of that which was pretty wonderful. Haven is a safe, happy, and peaceful place. I felt safe while reading about Haven Valley, I would totally live there! I also found Katelyn's dad to be hilarious with how he had no problem trusting Katelyn when she snuck out at night.
I enjoyed everything about Katelyn's journey to the Outside - how the secret passage was found at a graveyard, the threatening scribbles on the walls, the dry aquamarine water, the cave. It was exciting and confronting.
The Outside - also known as the town of Breakwater - was a world of its own, set in a different era. I was definitely intrigued by the Dragoons and their duty. I must admit I was a little bit lost in the mix of lords and commanders (and Margraves and Princes) there were a lot of people involved but I got the general idea of how they were ranked and how it worked.
I liked how Ivanovich placed Katelyn in the fairly royal hands of Dylan at the beginning and how Katelyn desperately tried to get away, not realizing this was the freest she'd be on the Outside and that it really was something she should've appreciated.
Dylan was, well, hard to figure out. Though he was full of himself and/or manipulative, he was never solely bad. I can't even say he was bad. Dylan was a wild card, you didn't really know with him. I read that Ivanovich had intended for 'Haven' to be a stand-alone novel but with the possibility of a sequel at the end, and I have to say, if 'Haven' had been left as a stand-alone I would've been left profusely conflicted about Dylan. He did not leave off in a good light and I'm glad there might be more to learn.
Even though the title states "War of the Princes" the reader isn't exposed to the war per se, the only knowledge and information about the war is that there is a war going on. 'Haven' followed Katelyn in her quest of going back to Haven Valley, truly a safe haven. Though Katelyn spends a good chunk of the story captured, there was never a dull moment.
I loved Katelyn's character - she was a great narrator with a sensible voice - strong-willed, compassionate, and even with a little wit thrown in to lighten up the mood.
The only time I found myself sighing at her was when she could not stop blaming Rune for something he clearly had had no choice over, other than that, there was not one choice or decision of hers that made me roll my eyes or wonder what the hell she'd been thinking. Katelyn seemed to always be at the top of her game.
I hadn't had any expectations romance-wise, and it was perfectly okay. Cave Rune had me wanting to know more and Dragoon Rune was mysterious. There was absolutely something about him, and that he wasn't allowed any connections to friends or family made it much more daring and I liked that because you knew, under the emotionless exterior, he's surely feeling. Although, honestly, the name Rune.. I needed some warming up to it.
Ironically enough, the minor (really minor) slow-going moment for me was the big fighting sequence towards the end - I don't know why I experienced that it was a bit scattered, it could very well have been my middle-of-the-night slow brain.
I was okay with the ending, though again, had 'Haven' been a stand-alone, I would've been left wondering too much about things - about Breakwater, about Dylan, about Rune. So I'm really glad there will be more.
Ivanovich's writing is excellent, very pleasant and expressive. I enjoyed every minute of it and I'm excitedly looking forward to the second installment.