Read-Along Review: Northlander by Meg Burden

This past week has been filled with all sorts of fun as I did my first read-a-long with my good blogging friend Chachic. We selected Meg Burden's Tales of the Borderlands duology for our first read-along and I for one could not have been more pleased with the series. Or the constant comments flying back and forth between Chachic and I. Since we basically wound up saying most everything we'd want to get across in a review in our emails back and forth, we decided to simply post our exchanges (minus spoilers!) for your enjoyment. 

Having traveled with her father, a master healer, hastily and in secret from the Southlands, Ellin Fisher quickly learns she is neither liked nor wanted in the cold Northlands. Both of which are made perfectly clear one night when she is locked outside the city gates -- during a blizzard -- simply for having the red hair of a Southling. Fuming and in danger of freezing to death, Ellin takes refuge in a guard cottage only to be intruded upon by the same guard who earlier denied her entrance. Only this guard is now crying his heart out over the impending death of his father. The King of the Northlands. Whose father Ellin came to heal (I'm sure you can imagine his change of heart). Not willing to stand by when perhaps she can help, Ellin convinces the young Prince Garreth to taking her to the King's bedside where she attempts an illegal healing using abilities she has is still only learning herself. Of course, by taking that first step into the King's presence, Ellin is brought into the inner circle of the five young Northern princes whose world she is about to turn upside down. That is, if they don't manage to muck hers up first.

Chachic: I started on Northlander and I'm really liking it so far. I'm at page 50 but I stopped because I want to pace myself to read with you so let me know when you've started and we can go from there. But please, don't feel pressured to read if you don't find time for it.

Michelle: No worries! So I'm up to chapter 6. So far I really, really like it. You have to love that brilliant first paragraph!

Chachic: I'm really liking it too! The first few chapters really draw you in and I had to stop myself from reading more. 

Michelle: So who do you think Ellin is going to fall for? Because you know she IS going to fall for one of those brothers! I'm intrigued with Finn and the whole silent communication thing but of course Garreth insulted her first and so he's going to have to go to all sorts of lengths to make it up to her, right? So I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Chachic: LOL I'm Team Finn! Yeah, I have a feeling she's going to end up with one of the brothers eventually - although maybe not until the second book? I'm not sure how old Ellin or the boys are but I think they're a bit young, maybe early teens? Because Ellin said that Alaric and Coll are men compared to the boys.

Michelle:  By the way, I love the dichotomy of the Northland and Southland, so far the premise is awesome. Your thoughts?

Chachic: I'm looking forward to reading more about the history of the world - why Northlanders hate Southlings and vice versa. It's a really promising book and I hope I keep liking it until the end.

(spoilery conversation removed, moving on to thoughts after finishing the novel)

Chachic: So I did finish reading Northlander and I really like it! I'm going to wait for you to finish it before we discuss so I won't mention any spoilers here. Really looking forward to reading the sequel. :)

Michelle: HA! I literally just finished reading it about 10 minutes ago! Honestly, this has been so fun -- I totally kept thinking "I wonder what part Chachic is to now?" So glad we did this together.

Chachic: LOL so funny that we finished reading it at the same time! It was so much fun, wasn't it? I mean I enjoyed sharing my thoughts with you but I also liked that we picked a good book to read.

Michelle: Overall I especially like the pacing of this book, so much happens in such a short span that I feel like you barely catch your breath when the next unthinkable thing happens. I'm all wore out now. :) But very, very good reading. I'm so glad we went with this one! 

Chachic:  I know what you mean about the pace of the book - going in, I thought it was going to be a quiet fantasy novel but I was pleasantly surprised that so much happens. And it never felt forced, you know? I was with Ellin all throughout all of those events.

Michelle: Although, I'm not sure I loved whole reason for the King hating Southlings. I don't know, it just seemed kind of rushed and thin. I wish it had been something a bit more substantial -- and explained more, but there you go. A minor quibble.

Chachic: Yeah, the part with the King hating the Southlings felt a bit rushed, it would have been better if there was more of an explanation for the situation. But yes, it's a minor quibble because I still liked the book overall.

I'm excited to review this one because I feel like it's such an under-the-radar title. I bought it because of recommendations from Angie and Charlotte and I see that Laura (from Jane of All Reads) also liked it but aside from that, no one else has read it. And I saw that it's marked as "hard to find title" in the Book Depository.

Michelle: Agreed! Excellent choice in book(s). I'm glad you seem to have similar reactions that I did, that just made this whole experience so much more fun.

Obviously if you couldn't already tell, Northlander stole my heart. I found it extremely refreshing to see such a character like Ellin who is constantly out of her element but who is still willing to learn and admit to her mistakes. And constant is the key here. It seemed as if Ellin flew head-first from one dangerous adventure to another, yet I never once felt that her story was forced or implausible. Unexpected, yes -- but still utterly believable in context. The five Northern Princes were also a complete breath of fresh air! Alaric, Coll, Finn, Erik, and Garreth all stole my heart in their own way (probably around the time they each wormed their way into Ellin's heart too). Meg Burden did an excellent job of creating believable and unique relationships between Ellin and each of the Princes. Seldom do you find YA books that manage to include well-drawn friendships between males and females. Northlander is one of those rare books that will continually surprise you with it's endearing characters over and over again. So very glad I decided to read it along with my good friend Chachic!

Want more? Be sure to hop on over to Chachic's Book Nook for the second part of our tremendous read-along and our thoughts on the fabulous sequel to The King Commands (even if the cover is properly cringe-worthy).

series reading order:
~ Northlander
~ The King Commands

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
A Jane of All Reads review
Angieville review
Bookshelves of Doom review
las risas review
Wands and Worlds review

book source: purchased


Chachic said...

I had so much fun on our readalong! So glad we chose Meg Burden's books. Both Northlander and The King Commands were such enjoyable reads, I felt like the pages just flew by. I really hope we can convince more readers to pick up the books. And I'll definitely be on the lookout for whatever Meg Burden releases next.

PS: Currently working on our review for The King Commands, it will go up soon. :)

Charlotte said...

So glad that you and Chachic like these so much! They are favorites of mine.