Knocked on my can in the first chapter and it happened a few more times- what can I say, I’m a lightweight. But really, it was my awe at how the author took a huge risk by putting a seering, controversial scene right in the beginning and trusted that her readers would take a gamble and stay with it to see the incredible, gritty harsh fantasy world journey she has placed her heroine on as amazing and a situation in which the heroine can show strength, passion and understanding. The journey is rough and hard, but the heroine stumbles and finds her way with me cheering her heartily on as she goes. And that hero, whew boy, he is just straight up powerful- passionate fire, sex and danger.
This is book two in the Fantasyland series. It is a story that begins parallel to the first one, but it would do just fine as a standalone since the hints to its sister story are minuscule and only a reader of the first book would know what they meant.
Circe wakes up in some sort of pen with other women and surrounded by rough, lusty men waiting for the festivities to begin. Another imprisoned woman who actually speaks her language shares that this is the annual Korwahk wife hunt. The Suh Tunak (Horde of warriors) are gifted a woman for their service in this way. Circe figures out fast that this isn’t just a nightmare that she will wake up from back in her bed in Seattle, but she has somehow entered another world- a brutal, terrifying one. She has caught the eye of the Dak (King of the Horde and Korwahk) and he is a fiercesome man who makes everyone tremble.
Terrified, Circe runs for her life. Warriors rush to capture her as she is the only golden haired woman. But as hard as she runs and fights, the Dak catches her and she is violated by her new ‘husband’. Her early days are horrific and it is heartwrenching being with a brutal savage who has different ways and another language, but then she encounters a woman from another nation who speaks her language.
Circe learns the ways of the Korwahk and her new husband. She ponders her situation and wonders about ever going home even as she slowly adapts and falls for her new situation and Lahn, her husband. He is brutal and savage, but he also has another side that she only is privileged to see. He is who and what he is and she eventually isn’t sure that their differences can ever be overcome and that is besides the attacks from within and beyond, betrayal, and misunderstandings bring them to the brink.
This author has the amazing ability to irritate and antagonize me and keep me riveted and breathless all in the same book. It’s happened more than once and I can see that this strange fixation I have is a fulsome compliment to the author. I find myself amazed more often than I am the other and that is what brings me back for more.
The world of these stories is no more remarkable than the usual fantasy settings, but they are still fun and entertaining- magic, talking creatures, fantasy creatures, and the compelling characters and plots. There is attention to details that shows a colorful diversity. The first story was set in a country that reminded me of Norse and northern European culture while this one took the story to the south lands for desert tribal culture. There is another language made up by the author and the diversity of difference even amongst the fantasy world races that I loved.
The pacing was not smooth. It was filled with exciting and intense scenes that moved swiftly or slowed to hold the reader’s breath, but there were also the dragging scenes of everyday life. Both were necessary as they helped advance the heroine’s life and integration into the world of the Horde.
Now, the elephant in the room. A rape occurs in the beginning of the story and there are other scenes that are abusive and violent. It is particularly an assault on the senses because it is so very early in the story before a reader makes deeper connections. Thus, I don’t think this book will be for everyone. I respect that a marauder-slave culture will be a situation that pushes too hard for some. The author writes about a savage race of people and she doesn’t pull punches and try to romanticize it. I will say that everything has a purpose and in that culture the rape and violence is not morally wrong to them so it all feels organic in this story. Circe, the character who comes from our world, is appalled and takes on the arduous task of change from within.
As to my love-hate thing about the author’s writing, I’m referring to writing style and her heroines. The books are wordy and overly angsty. I find the heroines to be the source of this. Circe is no exception. These heroines are girly girls (not meant as a bad thing just not my thing) so they get giddy over clothes and make-up, shopping, and girl gatherings. Circe gets stuck in her head and has over-blown emotions and temperament which makes her rush in without thought, react without thought, and you get the idea. The constant buzz of chatter in her head and in her dialogue is tiring. But, that said, this same heroine that drives me up the wall is also one I can respect her flaws and appreciate her strong indomitable nature that won’t back down to injustice or cruelty. Circe sees wrongs and seeks to change them. And when she screws up, she owns it. Okay, she needs a few thumps from her friends to get her head out of the emotional loop it’s in.
The love affair in this one was the strongest part of the story and left me oh so very satisfied. Lahn is an alpha among alphas. He has grown up hard and fast in this warrior nation. He is strong and a natural leader and protector, but it takes Circe to teach him about gentleness and loving kindness. Which it was beautiful when he learned after each difficult struggle. He is rough on Circe and breaks her heart, but he figures it out and moves heaven and earth to make it up to her. Circe also learns to slowly appreciate, respect and accept completely the man before her. He revolts her at first and then she really starts to see him and his more noble traits which had her swooning and me, too. Together they are combustible. Two strong-willed people who come together and forge a dynasty.
I didn’t mention before, but this was an audio encounter for me. Again, I was enthralled by the talent voice of Tillie Hooper. She is so in tune to tone, emotions, characters, and the pacing of the story. Her male voices can get raspy, but overall, she nails it. This a long story and large diverse casts of characters with a range of emotions and pacing, but she handled it like a champ.
So, in summary, I am more enchanted than ever with the Fantasyland series. Only this author can wow me with a book even if the heroine isn’t to my taste. Fantastic world, plot, and characters. I definitely want to continue with the series and recommend this book to those who like a gritty, brutal world where a spirited heroine can tame her savage warrior.
My thanks to Audible.com for the opportunity to listen to this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #309 FR