Title: The Foxling Soldati (Soldati Hearts #2)
Author: Charlie Cochet and Manuel Pombo (Narrator)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: April 20th 2018
Genre(s): Gay Contemporary Fantasy
Length: 4 hrs and 3 mins
Reviewed by: ColinJ
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Foxling Toka has served the Soldati king for centuries, and now he attends to the kingdom’s cherished Soldati prince. It’s a position of honor, and as Toka helps the once-human prince adapt to their magical realm, he finds joy in their friendship. He also grows bolder in his encounters with Rayner, Soldati warrior and the king’s second. But the laws are clear: servants and Soldati are not permitted to mate. It doesn’t matter that Toka lost his heart to the dashing cad long ago.
Rayner never imagined he would fall in love with a servant, but the clever and beautiful foxling has ensnared him, and he resents the regulations keeping them apart. When an arrogant and spiteful king visits from a neighboring realm, Rayner is in danger of losing everything. But Soldati warriors don’t surrender, and he intends to fight all the harder to keep Toka where he belongs—in Rayner’s arms.
As the second part of the Soldati Hearts novella series, this was an opportunity to develop not only the relationships of the characters but also the world building. The author has written a solid and enjoyable story. Given the previous book, it was clear what was likely to occur when a certain set of attitudes are brought together. This book is more rounded than the previous story and there is more opportunity for the development of tension, which was welcome. It remains unclear how this magical world fits alongside the human world, but given that this story does not venture there it is not a concern for the plot. The world building could have been developed more fully, but perhaps this is an evolving characteristic of the novella series, time will tell. The characterization remains strong and there is a slow evolution in the personal growth that reflects ‘human’ sensibilities, perhaps idealizing them a little too often.
The narrator adds richness to the experience through his accent that, with Irish undertones, provides a Celtic feel. The voice is generally clear and well enunciated with an effort made to provide emphasis where appropriate and some emotion. There is no differentiation in voice and so the listener is left to determine character from context.
There was a clear opportunity in this book to develop these secondary characters into a more cohesive central group. This was handled very well and it was interesting to again see how the author manages to resolve the apparently insoluble situations she places her characters. It is always good when things fall into place and that this cannot be predicted in advance.
In keeping with the novella format, the story has a fast pace and skirts around issues and locations, which may have benefitted from a fuller explanation and description. Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable read that keeps your attention throughout
The narration is well paced and easy to understand; however, it did feel from time to time that emphasis was placed in the wrong place in sentences making them jar somewhat. Obviously, the experience of listening is different from reading and affinity to a narrator is a personal thing, it can only be noted that the lack of vocal variance and sentence performance became progressively more frustrating for me.
As indicated above, there remain areas both of the world building as well as characterization that beg for further development. I’m sure that there is much more mileage to be gained from extending the series. I look forward to the next book.