The Path to Forever

Title: The Path to Forever
Author: Etienne
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Length: Novel (379 pdf pages)
Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Feliz

Summary review: More epic saga than “conventional”  m/m romance, this complicated story tells about a man who works out his place in his family of immortals, and his lover who tries to find out what makes them so unique.


The Blurb: Could you handle living forever, knowing you would watch your friends grow old and die? Could you handle loving someone, knowing you would live forever… without them?
These are questions newly minted Doctor Marco Sartori d’Argenzio must face when he and his partner Danilo Rosati celebrate Marco’s completed residency and Danilo’s most recent PhD with a vacation at Marco’s father’s home in the Italian Alps. There Marco learns about his family’s legacy: his father is more than two thousand years old, and he can expect to live just as long.
Marco inherits his uncle’s title amidst adventure and danger, but it breaks his heart to realize that he’ll live only to see the man he’s loved for a decade grow old and die. However, there is hope: Danilo is studying the unique DNA of Marco’s family in hopes of discovering the secret—because Danilo has no intention of leaving Marco alone for what could be forever.

The review:

Dani, a scientist working on a DNA exploring research project, comes across a man in the morgue who, according to his DNA, must be his lover Marco’s brother.  Oddly, the stranger is much too old to be Marco’s brother – five hundred years too old, to be exact. When Marco calls his father, who he hasn’t seen in more than ten years, to ask about his impossible brother, they learn some astonishing things, but Marco’s father doesn’t want to  reveal overly much over the phone. Since both Dani and Marco have just arrived at a point in their lives where they can make plans for a lengthy vacation, they decide to go to Italy where they both have roots. There they will meet Marco’s father in person. First, though, they encounter Marco’s maternal grandmother and his uncle, the Conte di Conti. The latter is rather unpleasant to them, but Marco makes it clear that he has friends in high places, so they are left in peace.
Marco’s father is the Duca d’Aragoni, which means he rules a small independent duchy in the Alps. He is also the patriarch of a large family clan of “immortals” who make up the core population of Aragoni. The male descendants of Marco’s father live forever, or so it seems, while the females die after a few hundred years. Marco and Dani soon decide to move to Aragoni where money doesn’t matter and both can have the kinds of jobs they always wanted. By chance and happenstance Marco becomes the Conte di Conti, earning his maternal grandfather’s title when his uncle and cousins die.  Marco isn’t overly happy with being a Conte since all he wants to be is a doctor in the Ospedale d’Aragoni. Nevertheless,  he sets about bringing the Conti family’s businesses back into the black by ways of his inborn natural business sense and his leadership personality.  Meanwhile Dani, who so far has played pretty much second fiddle to his partner,  starts a DNA research lab in Aragoni in order to inquire about Marco’s family. He’s got two major goals: finding a way to become immortal himself so he won’t ever have to leave Marco, and finding another family where the immortality gene runs in the female line in order to provide the members of Marco’s family with partners who they won’t have to watch grow old and die.

Sounds complicated? It is, trust me, and this above is but the surface of all the thousand little things going on in this story. Many of the different plot lines add to the main story, if sometimes only at a later point, but there were also some unfinished threads left hanging (However, since there is going to be a sequel to this book, maybe the loose ends will be tied up there.)  Also, the author managed to work in an amazing amount of sometimes rather outlandish bits of knowledge, for example the scientific term for men who are born without a foreskin or which is the proper way to store red wine in order to keep it drinkable for centuries.

I was enticed by the blurb to read this book by a new-to-me author, but sadly, I ended up unable to really get into the story for a number of reasons.

For one, the writing style was quite unusual. Although it is told in Dani’s and Marco’s alternating first person POV, we don’t get much of the actual narrator’s thoughts or feelings  since almost everything is handled through conversation.  Emotions, plans, descriptions, history – everything is speech, except for the occasionally thrown – in austere report on locations or actions,  and then it’s speech again.
It took me a while to realize why this bothered me so. Aside from the missing internal view – which is not necessarily a bad thing in itself – it was mostly the fact that those guys don’t talk to each other, they are holding stage-worthy dialogues. The overall effect to me was like attending a show or a play with my eyes closed, with someone describing the stage scenery to me.  The writing style made it hard for me  to take to the characters.

However, the mostly – dialogue writing style makes for a fast-paced reading. Others may love this book just for that.

For another thing, the story flowed along like a calm river despite all the obstacles the two heroes had to master. Marco’s mother gets kidnapped? There’s an almost impossible treaty to negotiate? There was an attempt on Marco’s and Dani’s life? For the most part, those problems are solved like, well that’s what lawyers/private investigators/investment bankers are for. When there’s no handy contractor available, the Duca’s money takes care of next to anything. Well, this is fantasy, after all, but after a while, it felt as if things just fell into Marco’s and Dani’s lap and they didn’t have to work for anything, including their relationship.

There is no on-page sex in this book, at least not between the main characters (although there is a description of Marco getting a hand-job from another gay man they become acquainted with in Aragoni). There are  lots of hints at Marco and Dani having sex, but those scenes are not even fade to black, but waved aside with half sentences. It makes sense, in a way, since Marco and Dani have been together for ten years. On the other hand, the lack of physical nearness between the main characters added to my inability to connect with them. Although other characters in the book  often refer to noticing Marco’s  and Dani’s deep love, I couldn’t. Again, though, this is just me, and my opinion is but one. Others may very well be able to understand their relationship just from the words.

Overall, this was  a story with an interesting plot idea, written in an unusual style, showing an impressive amount of research. Unfortunately, it failed to engage me; others may feel differently.

Author

Aside from owls, I love all kinds of birds, particularly the odd ones. Also dogs, Queen (the band), motorbikes and books.

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