Where I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!)
Who I Recommend This To: For those who like a simple, sweet fantasy love story.
Publisher: Red Mountain Shadows Publishing (2012)
Length: 265 pages
The story opens with manling Prince Garin and his trusted servant Elani (and a whole retinue of soldiers) setting off on another treasure hunt, seeking the Treasure of Isian. The fact that no one in the party knows what the treasure is nor where Isian is does not hold them back. Prince Garin has found other treasures before, why not this one? Elani, a girl on the cusp of womanhood, has been his unquestioning servant for the past 13 years. She adores Garin and would willingly live her life for him, even if there wasn’t a geis on her forcing her to follow through on any and all of his commands.
The reader gets to follow along on this fast-paced, G-rated adventure; through giants, water witches, dragons, warrior women, and a few other perils. Both Garin and Elani gain in depth as the story progresses, but never get bogged down in details of the past or too much inner turmoil. While Elani gets to wield a sword a few times, her character over all is subservient to Garin, in particular, and to anyone else in general. Garin starts to see his long-time companion as something more than a servant as new-found friends refuse to treat her as one.
Overall, Serena Clarke gave us a book that is a sweet Disney-like fantasy romance (violence isn’t detailed, simple plot, light kissing, happy ending). While I could tell from the beginning where the book was going, I was still engaged in Elani’s character and in the dynamic between her and Garin. It was gratifying to see Garin’s self-centered behavior change over the span of the book. Elani’s character, however, only gained so much depth and then stopped and her overall goals never changed. While there are a few female side characters, she is pretty much the only female character with an important role. Some of the other female characters were evil witches, lust-filled battle harden crude warrior women, and a self-absorbed princess. The male characters had larger roles to play and fewer of them were evil or crude or selfish, which gave the tale an unbalanced quality in the never-ending Battle of the Sexes. However, despite these simple flaws, I still enjoyed the tale as the main characters felt like familiar friends by the end.
What I Liked: Smooth, easy reading; several small adventures tucked into a larger quest; Elani’s perseverance; watching Prince Garin change; Elani gets to save the Prince.
What I Disliked: Most of the female characters are evil; there is only 1 main female character cast among a sausage fest; the 1st time Elani wields a sword in the story I think it is her 1st time ever and learn much later that she has had training (author could have put 2 sentences explaining that earlier in the book as I had a hard time believing Elani had conquered an early foe so easily for about a quarter of the book).