Not My Favorite Fantasy… Guest Review by Hayley

“To Best the Boys” by Mary Weber is the first book I’ve read by this author.  Releasing from Thomas Nelson in March of 2019, this book is targeted to a young adult audience and is set in a fantasy world in the province of Caldon.

As the summary says, a labyrinth challenge is a central point of the story, as competitors are subject to win a prestigious university scholarship.  However, only boys are allowed to enter, until one daring young lady in trying circumstances challenges this rule with the intention to indeed “best the boys”.

With a storyline centered around society’s oppression of females in combination with a very bold “tough” heroine, I was very much expecting a feminist worldview where high-profile careers and education are the main, worthwhile goals for either women or men.  These ideas were certainly portrayed very strongly in “To Best the Boys”, but in a tactful way that did not devalue women who choose a domestic lifestyle.

Coming from Thomas Nelson publishing I was expecting some Christian threads to this story, or as a fantasy, perhaps some allegorical elements.  I could not find much.  Perhaps if you look very closely you could find a couple of ideas where some could be, but to me they are not obvious.  I was particularly un-impressed by the heroine’s final conclusion that she belongs to herself, and to her newfound love.  Nothing was said about God.  Also, while the romance of the story is kept mostly clean, the villain of the story does at times act and speak inappropriately.

In the end, “To Best the Boys” is a bit of a quandary.  Some aspects here and there will certainly resonate with its audience, but to me a really concrete message, not to mention a Spiritual element, seems to be absent.

I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book free of charge from HarperCollins Canada, in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to submit a positive review, and all opinions expressed our my own.

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