Insta-love aside — which is the major downside for me because I really dislike reading about people immediately knowing their true love within days! — I thought this was a good fantasy-adventure-quest novella. I don’t usually jump into high fantasy tale, but I’ve known Rowan Speedwell’s writing so I figure I will be okay.
Captain Faran leads his men to the North in order to support a young mage, Meric, and find the mythical mysterious golden beast and a master mage. They arrive at Bitterwood Manor which belongs to Joss Daene from the Daene family, looking for shelter.
How I LOVED the quest part; Speedwell’s description of the harsh cold and the land, and how Farran, Meric, Joss, and their men were struggling to find the beast was ENGAGING for me. It felt rich and vivid. I thought that fantasy part was one of the strengths of this book. Even if it was a novella, I had enough understanding of the world-built; it was wonderfully explored. Even the history behind the Daenewood land and the myth of the beast was well-written.
I also loved the men — there were two relationship featured here. One was of Faran and Joss, who were more mature and despite the instant attraction, still felt rather slow-burned for me. Probably because both men had responsibilities … Faran with his quest, and taking care of Meric, and Joss with his sons, the manor, the land of the North and the people. Because his family, the Daene, is the oldest of the kingdom.
The other one was of young Meric and Joss’ youngest son, Eissa. Both still in their teenager years (Meric was almost 18, Eissa only 16), their love was also immediate. They recognized each other as the other’s true love. Which could easily made my eyes rolled hard, except that there was a sense of pure innocence and such tender loving between the two, that I couldn’t begrudge them that much.
It is a lovely fantasy story. If you haven’t had the chance to read it (when it was released by the now-defunct publisher) and you enjoy high fantasy element … give this one a try.
The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.
Title: Bitterwood (2nd edition)
Author: Rowan Speedwell
Genre: MM Fantasy
Word Count: 44,300 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: September 19, 2016