Here be Dragons

Pauline’s Review:

Two twin half-elf sisters, one a thief, one a sorceress, meet two twin half-elf brothers, one a thief, one a sorcerer… what are the odds? And there’s this instant attraction… Well, we can see where this is going, can’t we? Still, there are enough original twists here to give this a fresh spin. Elves are the rulers in this world, with humans as the underdogs, but the bottom of the heap are the half-elves, where those with magical ability are scooped up and trained and the rest are slaves or (at best) low ranking servants. They can’t set up in business or own property… which makes it tricky to live independent lives, except by thievery.

This was my first foray into fantasy romance, which in this case is romance with pointy ears. There is a plot, of sorts, involving stealing four items, one for each of the four elements – earth, air, fire and water – for someone or other, but really it doesn’t matter. It’s all just an excuse for smouldering glances over the campfire, sizzling accidental touches while hiding from dragons in caves, and a lot of heavy breathing. The first kiss is a quarter of the way into the book, and before the halfway point we’re into improbably athletic sex of the panting, thrusting, never-been-so-amazing variety. Elvish porn, if you like. And you know what? It’s a helluva lot of fun.

This isn’t a masterpiece of epoch-making literature, but then it has no pretensions to be anything other than entertainment. As fantasy, the world-building is sketchy, the plot isn’t terribly original and the magic is fairly conventional. There’s a lack of realistic detail in the background – the world has a few scattered towns and a lot of emptiness, and the characters simply amble through the scenery, always managing to find enough food and shelter. There appear to be no great threats out in the wilderness, apart from the beasties they themselves seek out as part of their quest. There always seems to be time for a quick roll in the hay. Or a slow one, for that matter. Followed by much, much more of the same. The setting isn’t the important factor, though. The characters have a lot of charm and the ‘romance’ is more plausibly done than some I’ve read, seeming quite natural for the circumstances. Even the obstacles keeping them apart seem reasonably believable. The author has a nicely unobtrusive writing style, and I didn’t spot any typos at all. I did wonder a bit about the morality of all that light-hearted stealing, but it didn’t seem like they had many other options so I’ll go along with it.

A minor grumble. I like a map with my fantasy, and there’s a very nice one here. So what’s the grumble? The map is at the BACK of the book, with no indication it’s there. Probably OK with a printed version, but in an ebook – please put the map at the front! Or a table of contents.

This is a fun book. It follows the conventions of romance, so yes, there’s that instant attraction thing, and there’s a lot of barely suppressed passion right from the start. The fantasy elements play second fiddle here and anyone looking for standard save-the-world fantasy should move right along, although the characters at least have credible motivations. The ending is just a tad too slick for my taste, but there are some good action moments along the way. The events at the monastery were exciting enough to keep me flipping through the pages, breathless to find out how it turns out. And how do our heroes celebrate afterwards? The usual way, that’s how. I have to confess that the constant humping gets a little bit repetitive after a while, and frankly if the male interest had been a vampire I wouldn’t have got through ten pages. But if you have a thing for hot elves (or half-elves, in this case) with a smattering of dragons thrown in, this is an entertaining read. I rarely give romancey type stuff more than three stars, but you know, I really enjoyed this, it’s better written than average and I have a soft spot for dragons (and sexy half-elves, apparently), so four stars it is.

Anachronist’s review:

Synopsis:

It is a first person narration of Chiarin or Rin, a half-elf girl living in a world where cross-breeds are discriminated, shunned and persecuted for what they are. She has a twin sister, Shaniel or Shani who is a sorceress. Magic is a rare gift but also a dangerous one, because coveted by elven aristocracy; once you get into their service they’ll never set you free. That’s why both girls have to hide and lead a hand-to-mouth existence.

One night Rin, a professional cutpurse, is robbed by another half-elf, a very handsome man called Zashter who has…an identical twin brother, Mior, and Mior happens to be…another sorcerer. Rin first avenges herself by causing the arrest of those two but soon her sister and her conscience make her regret that move so she decides to break into the prison and set Zash and Mior free.

After carrying out her ambitious plan, all of a sudden, she offers to accompany those two complete strangers whenever they are going. Zash reluctantly agrees because he has a very dangerous and important mission to fulfill – obtaining or stealing four powerful artifacts, one for every element, as required by his shadowy boss. He is a master thief, though; with the support of his brother’s magic he can manage without anybody’s help. Being also very handsome, he can have a new lover in every town he visits. What does he really need both sisters for?

My impressions:

It is the first part of a paranormal romance series and I am not going to criticize it for that – it would be as stupid as complaining that lemons are yellow and sour. If you don’t feel like reading about pointy-eared hotties making out on every possible occasion don’t even look at the book, as simple as that. Still I am going to carp a bit because in my humble opinion it could have been a lot better.

I liked the idea – half-elves who live in a hostile world where they have only two possible career choices: either become slaves or criminals, sometimes both, but never independent adults with a normal life. Our characters chose what they chose and never looked back. Fine. Just why they had to be two pairs of identical twins with identical skills is beyond me. A bit of variety is always a nice thing but unfortunately variety is not this novel’s forte.

Then you have the world building which is so sketchy that almost borders a catastrophe. Rin more often than not focuses on her romantic feelings, rarely sparing some time for the surroundings or politics or anything at all. The easy way Zash agrees to take both sisters under his protection and provide some tutelage is fishy from the very start; however dear Rin remains in the dark for most of the novel, never even daring to confront her lover or ask him the simplest and most natural questions. She is so busy, kissing, stealing, dreaming and kissing again. It would be such a nice change to have an interesting, clever heroine who actually knows how to make use of those two gifts in practice, especially when confronted with a handsome stranger.

I don’t want to be overly cruel and dwell too long on obvious plot flaws: like the fact that a certain monastery, full of stupid, kinky monks and some browbeaten sex slaves, contains a well which water heals every disease and can bring you back to life; seriously, the author wants me to believe nobody has ever considered taking it over and enjoying an everlasting and extremely profitable trade, not to mention an instantaneous and full recovery? Really, nobody was interested enough to gather an army of professional soldiers and punish those hideous monks for their depravity, keeping in mind that the reward might be worth more than a kingdom plus you would get those delicious women to play with? Nobody? How very improbable…

Let me finish my musings in a positive way – I appreciate the fact that the book ended the way it did, without any of those ugly cliffhangers. Funnily enough it made me curious about the second part – curious enough to buy it when it is available and the mood strikes again.

Final verdict:

Good idea, not really great execution. Don’t think too much while reading this book – the effects might be disastrous. However if you want something steamy and lowbrow easy to read, with elves, half-elves, magic and thieves, this novel might fit the bill. Two and half stars.

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Comments on: "Fantasy Romance Review: ‘The Ritual’ by Erica Dakin" (1)

  1. Oh dear, I think I might be persuaded to try this one!

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