Woven opens with a prologue told from the POV of an evil man named Kettle. We later discover the true identity of this man, but Kettle’s coldness is a great opener for this story. Then we meet Nels, our main guy. Nels is the perfect protagonist. He’s brave, true of heart, loves his mama, and will stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. He takes duty to heart, and dreams of being a knight for the land of Avërand. And he would be a great knight, if only his mother would be straight with him on why she forbids him from seeking out his dreams. Tyra, the princess of Avërand, is our main gal on this journey. She’s spoiled, vain, reluctant to accept her role for her land, and pretty much resents everyone. Naturally, she’s paired with Nels on the most important journey for both of them.
The point of view bounces between multiple parties, mostly told from either Tyra or Nels, but it’s seamless in execution. Not once did I question their voices. Each character has their flair and spice they add to the narrative. Our protags, Nels and Tyra, start on the most horribly awesome rocky foot between her insisting on calling him peasant, and him not giving into her princess-ly demands. As the story progresses, we see each of them begin to mature and grow. Nels discovers what it truly means to be a knight, not just what he believes it to be. Tyra learns what it takes to rule her kingdom like the royal she is inside, rather than the aloof snot persona she wears like a finely stitched mask. When the POV switches to our Big Bad, and we see how he views the world and what he’s willing to do to achieve his goals, the need to bathe is paramount. He’s plain creepy.
Once Woven hit its stride, about a quarter of the way in, I couldn’t put it down. The beginning was a tad slow for me, but it finally hit that sweet unputdownable flow and I itched to get back to it. There was a spot near the first third, where Tyra has an opportunity to save Nels, but it felt a little forced for me. Near the end, I discovered why it’s important, so it didn’t bother me too much. Some places I would have liked to see more of the world and the characters, because they were truly wonderful, but were glossed over as if trying to limit the words. Call me greedy, I just wanted more of this great story and characters. I also wanted a bit more from the ending. The journey finds its resolution, but again, it felt somewhat rushed for me. It also leaves the door wide open for a follow-up, one I would most definitely read.
In the end, I adored the witty banter between Nels and Tyra, cried when their road hit more than one pothole, cheered for them in times of need, and really wanted to punch Arek in the face. All of these things make for a great read and relatable characters who breathe through the pages. Woven is a cut and hem above many fantasies I’ve read. Readers who enjoy stories with honor and heart, like those of Terry Brooks, will love Woven.