This is my second encounter with the story, but it has been awhile. This time around was a cleaned up newer addition and the audio format.
A gripping fantasy romance of two bitter enemies brought together when elf, Ayden, crosses the border into human lands to keep his sister from capture only to be captured right alongside her. Ayden becomes the human prince, Freydrik’s personal slave. It is an intense battle of wills as well as a battle for understanding as the pair navigate their way through court intrigue, traditions and society, war, and finally a chance of understanding. There is a huge twisting, jangling cliffhanger in the end that left me gasping for part two of the story.
Counterpoint is not an easy tale as it is an enemies to lovers slave romance. Elf-kind vs. Human-kind. Both races blame the other for a long standing war and the situation in the wild lands where the animals are twisted into dark beasts. The times are dangerous for all. Elves retreated deep into their own lands and humans fight for survival against the dark beasts.
Ayden’s sister, Ella, is a naive and sweet elf who is curious and kind. She secretly has human friends and she goes to one who is dying. Only she is spotted by a human patrol. Ayden is watching from the borderlands and races to her rescue. He fights only to be taken and then he is brought before a human prince of that region. His hatred and vitriol are barely contained, but he’ll grovel and do anything if the human prince will spare his sister from being used and abused.
Freyrick rules as regent while his brother the king is off at the high council’s city. He is challenged to find a way to protect his people with not enough men. The dark beasts will come in the next magical wave. Now, he is confronted by a surely elf who disdains him. The elf will give up what he knows and help Freyrick fight the dark beast hoard and Freyrik will do what turns his own stomach to achieve this. The female elf is the hostage and will keep the wilder, angrier male in line.
Only, knowledge isn’t all Freyrik wants from Ayden. He is captivated and wants the elf to give himself to Freyrik freely. But the venom from Ayden and his treatment from humans makes this highly unlikely. Freyrik and Ayden walk on the edge of a blade as they hide what is growing between them from Freyrik’s race that hates and enslaves elf-kind. Not even Ayden’s help in the war can hold back the growing unrest and the rising clamor that Freyrik put aside his slave whom all believe has enspelled him.
As I said, this isn’t an easy story because of the grittier brutal world of this fantasy romance. But, though it is a slave situation, it is all consensual. It’s a troubling world on the human side of things straight out of the Middle Ages when most women were chattel and there was a free and slave society. The elf side was enchantingly developed. Their magic is that of elf song. They are immortal, they have extra gifts and their gifts are driven by their command of ‘elf song’. Ayden can read emotion and intention because those give off ‘song’.
I enjoyed the characters of Ayden and Freyrik. It was interesting that though Ayden has lived centuries, this pair seem nearer in maturity and age. There are hints that the elves mature slowly so this makes some sense paired with the fact that Freyrik is responsible for his people and takes his responsibility seriously. Ayden is so filled with hate that he can come off petulant a few times and yet he has far-seeing wisdom that is saddened by the human’s society and ways around him because they are not as enlightened as the elves. Freyrik is actually open to the possibility of a friendship and more with an elf and respects Ayden. I enjoyed the way the dynamics in their relationship shifted from enemies all the way to lovers. It was gradual and not simple or easy. There is much distrust and events that come between them.
There is a sense that there is something more going on in their world as when they compare notes, things don’t add up. But they cannot openly work at matters because there are always suspicious people watching them at court and also the distant, but palpable power of the human high council. And the ending hints that things are going to be blown wide open in the other half of the story in the next book.
The narration was done by Craig Beck. This was my first encounter with his work. I thought he did a fantastic job. I formed images of the characters based on his voices and this jived well with the words of the story. He got nuances, tone, emotion, and pacing right. I would definitely listen to more of his audio book narration work.
In summary, this one paced along slowly in ways as the relationship depended, but had its heart-stopping and exciting passionate moments, too. This is for those who enjoy a darker, gritty, m/m Fantasy Romance.
My thanks to Riptide Publishing for the opportunity to listen to this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #316 FR
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