A quest into the heart of the wintry north country for a mythical cat and a powerful mage takes Captain Faran, his men, and Mage Meric to the estate of Joss Daenes, Lord of the Bitterwood. The journey is wreathed in secrecy and desperation, but the blizzard keeping them inside the manor of Joss and his sons brings an unexpected result. Faran is amazed at what he finds in this far north corner of the kingdom- the industry of the people, their loyalty to Joss Daene and the kingdom, and their distrust of the recently demised king are just the beginning. Meric and Faran learn of the legends and magic of the lands even as they experience it for themselves in their present company. The great cat is everywhere known of and leaves awe in its wake.
Faran is attracted to Joss and Joss to him, but he mourns that it is not meant to be because success or not from their quest still has him leaving the north lands and returning to his duties as a soldier for the kingdom. In the meantime, Meric and Joss’ younger son forge a connection which is part of the legend about the Daenes- a family of magic wielders who know their true love as soon as they meet them. But death can break the bond and it is death Meric faces if he cannot find the great cat or the powerful mage of the prophecy. So the hunt is on.
I enjoy a good fantasy setting and a quest adventure is my ultimate fantasy trope so I was eager to pick Bitterwood up and give the writer a try for the first time. I found this steady-paced tale a delight. I immediately liked Captain Faran as a narrator and also the times when Meric told his part of the tale. Faran is a unique man and I enjoyed seeing this world and its people through his eyes. He humbly does his job and is loyal to the kingdom even though his hard childhood and the political climate made working hard and staying true an arduous task.
The romance was tender and passionate. Faran respects Joss and likes him and has the same from Joss even before they act on desire. I loved these two together and didn’t like that in the end their sense of duty and honor would be what tore them in separate directions.
The hidden twist about Meric and also about the prophecy of the cat and mage was not difficult to figure out, but that twist at the end of the story was a nice shocker. The desperation as they were up against time and the danger of the hunt in the darkest part of the woods added good tension and excitement.
All in all, I enjoyed my first encounter with the author and found this story rather engaging. I think m/m light fantasy romance lovers should definitely add this one.
My thanks to Riptide Publishing for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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