In a kingdom where the Old Ways hold fast and a man’s worth lies entirely in his skill with the sword, Conor Mac Nir is a scholar, a musician, and a follower of the forbidden Balian faith: problematic for any man, but disastrous for the son of the king.
When Conor is sent as a hostage to a neighboring kingdom, he never expects to fall in love with the rival king’s sister, Aine. Nor does he suspect his gift with the harp (and Aine’s ability to heal) touches on the realm of magic. Then his clan begins a campaign to eliminate all Balians from the isle of Seare, putting his newfound home in peril and entangling him in a plot for control of the island that has been unfolding since long before his birth.
Only by committing himself to an ancient warrior brotherhood can Conor discover the part he’s meant to play in Seare’s future. But is he willing to sacrifice everything—even the woman he loves—to follow the path his God has laid before him?
With fantasy novels, I’ve noticed that they can be either really good or very bad….and this one was really good. The world that Ms. Laureano is both unique and familiar and her storyline rich. My thoughts:
What I liked:
The story world. Half the time I felt like I was in Scotland, and the other time I knew I was in a world of Laureano’s own making. And yet, I didn’t feel like I lost anything by having that Scottish feel. In fact, I found the similarity comforting. With fantasy novels there is always that risk of getting lost in the details and skimming, but I never felt that way about this world. But, I also loved the elements that were uniquely her own. Like most novels in this genre there’s a bit of a coming of age and lots of prophecy, but it just adds to the tension of the novel as a whole.
The romance. Romances can suffer sometimes in fantasy novels because the focus is usually on the main character developing. Not so much with this one. The romance was beautifully interwoven in the pages. While there may have been an instant connection, there was also plenty of time for their friendship to grow. And thus, when they were separated, I had the utmost faith, they would be together again…and I wanted it so bad!
Conor is a fabulous narrator. You really connect with his emotions and how he must deal with the situations around him. I will admit that there are certain elements that are “familiar” to this kind of novel, but it’s done in a unique enough way that I am sure you will enjoy reading it.
Aine was a fantastic heroine. She was strong and independent and yet she worked within the confines of her society. I love that she matches Conor and that while she needs him, there are plenty of times when he needs her.
There is a time when Aine and Conor go there separate ways, and usually I do not like when the hero and heroine split up. I usually flip pages quickly in an effort to get them back together sooner, but I found myself to be highly entertained even though they were separated. They still had stories to tell apart from each other.
Some of the secondary characters were pretty amazing. Eoghan I’ve got my eye on you.
Spiritually, its a bit of a journey, but Conor learns to trust God even when things look like they haven’t worked out, and Aine’s steadfast faith is like a breath of fresh air.
What I didn’t like:
I liked everything about this novel. As previously noted, some elements have been “done” before, but good writing will allow you to experience them anew all over again.
Romantic Scale: 8.5
Overall, very good. Very satisfying. Loved the ending! And counting down the days until I get book two!
**I received this novel from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in any way.**