This was part of Fantasy Book Review’s grouping, and has since been eliminated. This was a heavy romance book, and romance is sort of …. no, it’s way out of my wheelhouse. I tried my best with this review since I don’t read romance all that often – if you are big into romance and think it sounds like your thing check it out!
Clara is born in a lower class family in a pretty typical medieval setting. She’s the daughter of a seamstress, and the relationship she has with her mother is strained at best. Her mom is pretty abusive, very strict, and doesn’t show any affection towards her daughter at all. Clara is out running errands when she’s taken by nobleman and shoved into a carriage with other women from her town and whisked away to the Dark Lords castle.
She has to sit there and wait to be ‘picked’ or cast aside as the Dark Lord chooses which woman will be his new mistress. The Dark Lords of these lands don’t take wives, just mistress’s which give them the heir they need.
Clara is chosen, and the rest are sent back to the village. She’s, of course, worried about what’s going to happen to her and she tries to escape multiple times, but it doesn’t work. She’s caught every time and sent back to the mansion – and Lucias is losing his patience with her.
Lucias (the dark lord), is able to extract peoples souls and turn them into mindless zombies. Clara, during an escape attempt, stumbles into the ritual when he’s taking the souls of criminals, and she begs him not to hurt a young boy, who she knew was not a criminal. She thinks there’s been some kind of mistake, and that the boy should be let go. Lucias wasn’t having it until Clara makes a desperate attempt and says she’ll stop trying to run away if he spares the kid – so he lets him live as a page.
The rest of the book is these two working out how to get along with one another. The reason he needs an heir so badly is that his mother is hell bent on killing him. His mother was an unwilling kidnapee from of his father’s, and she resents the dark lord line and everything they stand for. She was separated from him at a young age, so they never created a real bond. She’s just killed his father, and is after him – so he has to have an heir soon to continue the line, or war will break out in the kingdom.
Final Score: 6/10
Clara is definitely feisty, she tried to escape every chance she got and rebuffed Lucias at every turn, telling him over and over she would never be a willing mistress to him. She has a rather warped view of family since her mom was so terrible to her, she doesn’t even see it abuse most of the time. She’s 17, and acts a little more mature than I would have expected out of a teenager, but considering the society and ‘time period’ she’s actually considered a little old to have not been betrothed yet. She does have a good heart and was deeply concerned for the well being of the young boy who was about to have his soul sucked out – she could have run at that point and maybe gotten away since Lucias was distracted. Then she gave up her chance at escape by promising not to if he spared the kid.
Lucias is a weird one, he’s grown up with a father who was power hungry and enjoyed punishing people. His mother was an unwilling mistress and eventually ended up killing his father and then coming after him – that will give you some issues. He doesn’t want to be associated with his father in any way and doesn’t want to turn into the person he was. A few of his advisors/friends told him he should just rape her and “seek forgiveness” afterwards like his dad did since he needs an heir ASAP. He goes kind of crazy… and hits the woman who suggested it. He also sucks out souls of “criminals” without second guessing if they really are criminals or not. He just assumes since they were brought before him they must be guilty, right? He reasoned that it was better to use criminals who are now his mindless slaves to use in the army, rather than force conscription on law-abiding men. He was an interesting fellow.
Final Score: 6.5/10
This is definitely a classic medieval type world with a “peasant” class and a noble class, quaint towns with bakers, butchers, seamstress’s etc. It does seem like literacy is pretty commonplace since Clara had enough money to buy a book and knew how to read. It’s one of the things her and Lucias had in common.
Magic is very mysterious and old school, Lucias is able to cast spells not just suck out the souls of people. He could command people to do whatever he wanted, like jump out of the highest window in the castle to their deaths. If he wanted to, and he did.
Most of the story took place in one location, but there were mentions of other realms and kingdoms and lands – it could come up in later books.
Healing magic can be cast over a location like the training grounds, which kept people from getting too injured and dying from wounds – which also kept the training more interesting since you could go all out.
Taking peoples souls starts to mess with the Dark Lord’s heads, many of the Dark Lords from the past went insane after a while.
Once a person is “soulless” they have no mind, and their body can no longer create life – which is one of the reasons the women aren’t just turned into mindless zombies for baby making.
Final Score: 7.5/10
Pacing, Prose, and Tone:
I’m not sure what the tone was for this, frustration? Anxiety? That seems to be what the character was feeling most of the time, the book felt claustrophobic since the main character was always trying to get out. It wasn’t a particularly dark book, there wasn’t a lot of bloodshed or monsters – def not a lot of gore and beheadings and all that. This is a romance book, so by the end of it, that is the tone of the book – happy.
This was a pretty steadily paced book, it wasn’t breakneck with tons of battles and wild things going on, but it didn’t drag. It was a pretty short book so there wasn’t a lot of filler, things kept moving along nicely. There were a couple overused words, but I didn’t catch many editing errors.
Pacing Final Score: 8/10
Writing Final Score: 6.5/10
I kick myself when I get to this section in a genre I don’t read much of, I feel like I have no base to grade off of – so I’ll go off the world building rather than the plot + world building.
Final Score: 7/10
- Single POV
- Female POV
- Clean with no cursing
- Little violence
- Happy ending
- “Good guy” main character (not grey)
This will be a book for people who want a lighter quicker read, with a nice ending – I often need breaks from grimdark, or epic fantasy because I burn out easily reading too many of those in a row.
This will have more appeal to people who like slower burn romances where the two do NOT hit it off at first.
Final Score: 41.5/60 or 6.91/10 or 3.45/5
This seems like just the kind of book that would normally appeal to me but I think I’m also starting to (finally) get tired of the change the alphahole into nice marriage material trope.