I can’t tell you how refreshing I found this book by Kristen Painter. Sure, you know her–the cofounder of the wonderful Romance Divas (if you’re not a member of that writer’s guild, you’re really missing out). I know that Kristen has sold to Orbit books, and now I’m really looking forward to those titles.
This self-published title is as fine as any classic fantasy tale I’ve read in a long while. And classic fantasy romance it is–complete with a very alpha elf (of the tall-dark-handsome-fearless-dangerous variety) and a halfling heroine. I especiallly loved the portrayal of the cervidae–think deer shifters–and their bucolic world. But it’s not so happy for Jessalyne, and within the first chapter I really felt her heartsickness and wanted a happy ending for her. It took me a hair longer to warm up to Ertemis, our buff elf, but I did–especially when his life is in jeopardy.
I don’t mean this as a negative, but I cared less about the plot to save a kingdom than the worldbuilding itself–immediately accessible, consistent, believable, and written with extraordinary care. I’ve written enough fantasy to know that’s a tough thing to do well. And I’ve read enough bad fantasy to know the difference.
I also want to give a hearty nod to Kristen’s dialog. I’m a big fan of good dialog–and usually someone who writes such lush description like that found in this book is not as good at dialog–that all important quality to help define characters. Kristen is great at both. Oh, and there’s subtle humor here in the dialog that warms one to the characters. Well done!
I would recommend this title to anyone who likes romance, fantasy (not of the darkest horror variety), unique “species” for want of a better word, and flawless, flowing writing. I cheered for the protagonists to have a well-deserved happy ending, and they did. I would also recommend this book especially to older teens–although I think fans of light classic fantasy romance of any age will adore it.
I have read every classic fantasy tale out there, I think. I’d say this is in the vein of Shannara, which is saying a lot because I love me some Terry Brooks.