A guest review by Sirius
Summary review: It started as exciting and fast paced tale, however it all went downhill for me once I realized that the protagonist has the same character traits as all protagonists that this writer’s works have.
After saving his younger brother’s child, Daemon Shar is cursed by a witch and runs far from home, a stray who will seemingly never be anything more. But destiny is hard to outrun, even for a man who is now more cat than man beneath his robes and cowl. A chance battlefield meeting between he and Ehron, a foreign lord, gives him purpose amidst the darkness of his accursed life. Soon Daemon finds that his true nature cannot be corrupted no matter the form he inhabits.
As Ehron’s consul, Daemon plots and plans to shape his new lord’s future so that he may leave it blessed when he runs away yet again. But he never counted on his soul hungering for Ehron’s brother Gareth or for his past to catch him by the tail at last.
Empire of Narsyk is in the middle of a civil war. Two brothers are fighting for the emperor’s throne and the third brother is just trying to be a peacemaker and stop the bloodshed. The tale opens with the third brother Valian and his friend and servant Ostyn Tan racing against time to try and save the life of the wife and son of his younger brother Jaron who wants to be an emperor of Narsyk in place of their oldest brother. Valian and Ostyn manage to save the baby but not the mother, who is killed by a witch assassin. Valian is also hit by a mysterious curse, which supposedly should make him look more like a cat than a man, but we are not given any more details.
Valian and Ostyn bring the baby to his father and Valyan decides that he should leave the country now. His face and body are hidden from his brother while they talk. His brother tries to stop him but without any luck; they part and we leave Narsyk.
I really liked the beginning of this story. It was fast paced, exciting and fun and I could not wait to see what happened next. Unfortunately when we are in Rieyn, some sort of feudal-like state, I quickly realized that it is unfortunately what I consider the usual fare by this writer, just dressed up in a much nicer and more appealing wrapper. In Rieyn we are introduced to the ruling family in the barony of Kasany, their oldest son is coming back from war and he brings with him his trusted Consul Daemon Shar who saved his life many times on the battlefield.
And here it begins. Daemon is wearing a black robe, his face is usually hidden, and nevertheless he manages to charm everybody and I mean everybody very fast. Ehron, the oldest son, whose affection for Daemon at least was understandable for me. After all, how can one not love a comrade who saved your life many times? Ehron already loves him after the war, however the youngest daughter Amelina and his younger brother Gareth fall in love with Daemon very fast. He is smart, capable, resourceful, ready to tackle any problem, thinks ahead, brave, have I mentioned brave? Oh and despite the fact that nobody sees his face till a certain moment, everybody is sure that he is beautiful. Of course when his face is finally revealed he is indeed very beautiful. When we finally see the romance between Daemon and one of the members of Kasany’s ruling family, I found it to be quite boring to be honest. Yes, the man is head over heels in love with Daemon, not a surprise, everybody (including one usually stubborn to the point of being a murderous horse) either loves him or respects him, or does both.
Here is the brief summary of how much everybody loves Daemon Shar:
“Not want you, daft man – love! I love you, Hektar Prahna loves you, my brother loves you! Even Mycah Ilen, for all his poxy pride, loves you! We all love you, and if that is what is needed to truly see you, then all the powers of Rieyn will only ever see a man with golden eyes and the most sinful mouth I—“
The more I read this book the more I groaned. I have read every book by this writer, except her A Matter of Time series and if you were to ask me to describe the protagonist in each of them, I will change the names and pretty much give you the very same description. Amazingly beatiful, talented, sociable person, whom everybody around them cannot help but love dearly. This is probably the main reason why the book overall did not work for me. I do not want to sound hypocritical here, since as I said above I have read every book by this writer except A Matter of Time series, so obviously something attracts me to her books, although I have no idea what the attraction is, as over the top beatiful and talented protagonists are something that I usually cannot stand. The best I can come up with is that her writing is addictive, despite the same characterizations over and over again.
I thought for example that the worldbuilding in this book was really really good and Rieyn’s social structure and overall settings truly came alive. I wish I would have cared as much for the characters as I liked the surroundings. I also did not think there was enough conflict between the lovers, and whatever conflict there was, was not enough for me.
I think readers who are new to Mary Calmes’ works may enjoy this story more than I did.