A Free Dreamer Review: Apple Boy (The Quiet Work #1) by Isobel Starling

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

A new Fantasy series by award-winning author Isobel Starling

A lost lordling, a farm boy, and a tale of mystery, magic, and murder!

After a traumatic event, Winter Aeling finds himself destitute and penniless in the backwater town of Mallowick. He needs to travel to the city of Serein and impart grave news that will bring war to the Empire, but without a horse, money, and with not a soul willing to help him, he has no choice but to line up with the common folk seeking paid work on the harvest. 

As wagons roll into the market square and farmers choose day laborers, Winter is singled out for abuse by a brute of a farmer. The only man who stands up for him is the farmer’s beguiling son, Adam, and on locking eyes with the swarthy young man Winter feels the immediate spark of attraction.

Winter soon realizes there is a reason he has been drawn to Blackdown Farm. The farmer possesses a precious item that was stolen long ago from Winter’s family, and he determines to retrieve it. He also cannot take his eyes off the farmer’s son, and as the young man opens up Winter can’t help wondering if Adam is just kind or his kind!

I was really looking forward to “Apple Boy”. Finally a M/M fantasy novel that actually has more than 300 pages! In the end, the book didn’t quite meet my expectations, however.

I quite liked the beginning. I enjoyed slowly finding out about what happened to Winter, and about the world in general. I was charmed by the unusual plot idea and the highly likable MCs. But the more I read, the less I enjoyed what I was reading. The MCs were still likable and the plot unusual, but somehow the initial spark just got lost.

One thing I noticed right away was the slightly sloppy editing. There were several recurring minor spelling mistakes, like Gods vs. God’s, that really have no place in a finished novel. I’ve definitely read worse, but there just is absolutely no excuse for bad spelling and grammar.

The world building was very thorough and yet somehow lacking at the same time. We learn a lot about the different provinces of the Empire and their past, as well as how the magic works. I mostly missed some details. I didn’t understand why homosexuality was completely normal and accepted by everybody in Winter’s home province, while it was an offense punishable by the death in the neighbouring province. Those are two opposite extremes I wouldn’t expect from neighbours under the same government. I also completely missed any kind of religion. I’m not even sure if there was one god or several, because of the constant switches between Gods/God’s.

I enjoyed the relationship dynamics between Winter and Adam. Winter is younger, yet more experienced and more powerful. Adam is older by five years and has absolutely no experience with relationships or sex. I really liked how their relationship developed with time.

While I didn’t mind the writing style initially and thought it fit the setting, it got on my nerves after some time. It started to feel very much like purple prose and the many exclamation marks made it all feel overly dramatic.

The story definitely captivated me. I was at work when I read the very first scene of Adam and Winter sharing forbidden kisses and when the door of the shop opened and a customer came in, I very nearly got a heart attack and felt super guilty.

I was quite surprised by how the plot turned out. There were some big surprises and a couple of twists I most definitely didn’t see coming and I liked how it all played out.

Overall, I did enjoy “Apple Boy”. The story itself was great, but the editing and writing style definitely had a negative impact on my reading experience. The next book in the series won’t be about Winter and I’m actually not sure if I want to read it or not.

The cover is very pretty. Adam looks gorgeous and just how I imagined him. I wouldn’t expect a Fantasy story behind such a cover, though. There’s nothing remotely magical about it.

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Book details: Kindle Edition, 556 pages

Published February 15th 2019 by Decent Fellows Press

By Scattered Thoughts

At over 50, I am ruled by my terriers, my gardens, and my projects. A knack for grubbing about in the woods, making mud pies, and tending to the injured worms, bugs, and occasional bird and turtle growing up eventually led me to working for the Parks. I was a park Naturalist for over 20 years, and observing Nature and her cycles still occupy my hours. From the arrival of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the Spring to the first call of the Snow Geese heading south in the Fall, I am entranced by the seasons. For more about me see my bio on my blog.

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