A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: A great main character and well written world building wasn’t quite enough for me to love this book; my opinion is probably in the minority here, as I think this book would really appeal to most fairy tale fantasy fans.
Blurb: Brute leads a lonely life in a world where magic is commonplace. He is seven and a half feet of ugly, and of disreputable descent. No one, including Brute, expects him to be more than a laborer. But heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and when he is maimed while rescuing a prince, Brute’s life changes abruptly. He is summoned to serve at the palace in Tellomer as a guard for a single prisoner. It sounds easy but turns out to be the challenge of his life.
Rumors say the prisoner, Gray Leynham, is a witch and a traitor. What is certain is that he has spent years in misery: blind, chained, and rendered nearly mute by an extreme stutter. And he dreams of people’s deaths—dreams that come true.
As Brute becomes accustomed to palace life and gets to know Gray, he discovers his own worth, first as a friend and a man and then as a lover. But Brute also learns heroes sometimes face difficult choices and that doing what is right can bring danger of its own.
I have a suspicious feeling that this book is likely to be very much a five star read for many readers. Perhaps I should just sign off here saying….if it looks like a winner it is a winner!
I really enjoyed meeting Aric, a thoughtful but physically unprepossessing gentle giant of a man known as Brute by the less discerning people of his vibrant but faux fantasy feudal world. The background to this fable like story is rich in slowly built details of peasants, hovels, princes, castles, all hierarchically tumbling over themselves in atmosphere and sensory images. His painful story as the outsider and underdog grabs the attention and his personal journey is engaging. I am overdoing the build up to the ‘ but ‘..here, because it simply comes down to me not loving this book and I guess think I should have. Indeed I really like Kim Fielding’s writing.
Consequently I probably overspent my time trying to work out why this quality book just didn’t completely rock my world. Primarily, I think it is partly because nothing really surprised me about the main relationship. I also found Gray, a man in the iron mask type prisoner, ok sans mask here, but abused and hated, who should have been a figure of pity and interest, less than thrilling as a character. He just felt off balance to me. I thought the punishment for his absurdly self confessed crime overdone and his reaction to it annoyed me and then made me feel guilty because I was such an unsympathetic woman. There was also a blunt inevitability of him getting together with Aric, that dulled what should have been exciting.
I found Prince Aldfrid, after a hopeful start in the early scenes with Aric which I really liked, somewhat wet. In fact that in part sums up my slight issue with the book, I was very engaged in the beginning but somewhere along the way my mind started wandering off world.
There is much about this book which works, it is well written, colourful and very appealing as a fantasy journey of self improvement and romance for the essentially anti Shrek that is Aric. His compassion and curiosity were compelling, the scene when he searched for the dying peasant and gave away his warm clothes to the cold and destitute has a grim fairy tale quality about it. It reminded me of stories like the The Little Match Girl.
If you like fantasy with that Hans Christian Andersen, ‘ fantastic tales ‘ essence this story will be very pleasing. Meanwhile, for me as a complete work I liked it but didn’t love it. I think it will appeal much more to less cantankerous readers.