Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5
Derek never wished to inherit his title as a result of a bloody battle. With the old count dead and the truce dependent on his marriage to the rival duke’s son, Derek has no choice but to agree to the victor’s terms in order to bring peace to his homeland. When he learns of the sinister rumors surrounding his intended groom, Derek begins to have doubts—but there can be no turning back from saying I do.
After the death of his wife, Callan of Mulberny never expected to be forced into another political marriage—especially not to someone like the new Count of Camria. Seemingly soft and meek, it’s only fitting that Derek’s family crest is a flighty sparrow, worthy of nothing but contempt.
Another war with the seafaring people of the Outer Isles looms on the horizon, and the reluctant newlyweds must team together to protect those caught in the circle of violence. Derek and Callan slowly learn to let go of their prejudices, but as they find themselves enmeshed in intrigue fueled by dark secrets and revenge, their tentative bond is all that keeps their world—and their lives—from plunging into chaos.
I enjoyed the sort of mystical historical fantasy novel, The Wolf and the Sparrow by Isabelle Adler. I thought it worked very well on some levels and less well on others. From the moment I met the main characters of Derek, son of the fallen Count of Camria and now the new “head” of house, and Callen, first son of the Duke of Mulberny, victor of the war, the author eases of us the perspectives of both men and their various different worlds. The gulf between them necessarily wide due to the losses of war, Derek his father and the fear of losing his small fiefdom and all that entails for his people and family. For Callan? It’s merely one more political move by his father with himself as the chess piece, one he doesn’t want to make but will for duty.
The young men as characters are well thought out and presented, less so some of the people around them. I am not sure if this is the first story in a series but much is made of Derek’s brothers, an older scholarly brother Ivo and a sullen teen brother who constantly acts up, putting his brother’s safety and that of any political agreements in danger. That it is allowed to continue makes no sense in this narrative other than for dramatic purposes. The brother is unlikable, the author makes no attempt to layer him into anything other than a cardboard character and eventually he disappears completely two thirds of the way from the story leaving the reader to wonder why he was inserted at all. Ivo’s character did a flip flop at the end and then exited as well after being used as a potential red herring for a relationship with Callan’s sister. Both examples of throwaway characters that had way too much page time.
The relationship development between Callan and Derek moved along nicely when they were allowed to be out in the field doing exactly what warriors like themselves were allowed to do, bonding over field maneuvers and showing their skills at taking down marauders. That made complete sense and I loved it. The other element I started to get into and I thought was absolutely underused was that of magic.
What a waste. It was, in my opinion, such a great part of the narrative and yet so underwhelming at the same time. One, the effects were only related by one of the main characters not both.What a loss because while we get the maelstrom of physical, emotional, and magical elements happening from one side, we never get to “see” it from the other’s. Which is weird because this whole story is a two narrative novel. Why reduce to one now? When we want to “see” what is happening at it’s most wildest and wonderful? Makes no sense. The best part and powerful potential of this story is lost. And not for the last time.
If the author was laying the groundwork for a series, that would be different, but I believe this is a standalone novel, so here is all this great promise for magic within this novel and character and quite frankly, it gets tossed away, not one but twice, because the author holds back, throwing out tidbits instead of going full throttle. This character can control animals, have them do his biding. Do we see it? Uh, off stage sort of. Control the wind and seas? Does that come into play? Nope. Other cool stuff? Pretty much no. Just one more “bunny out of the hate” and done.
What a shame.
The end comes off the same way. Characters disappear, there is an odd resolution that feels sort of inadequate, magically speaking. and yes, a HEA for this couple, which seems odd, because, other than Ivo, Derek’s family is never mentioned again.
So yes, I enjoyed it but so many questions kept popping back up into my head about other characters, universe building, and the holes in the magic that it wasn’t a smooth read for me. If you are more of a surface reader than I am, perhaps this story is more in your wheelhouse than mine. Either way, I found it went pretty quickly and the main characters were enjoyable. I just wish the promise I saw had been fulfilled.
Cover art by Natasha Snow is eye catching and dramatic.
ebook, 300 pages
Published November 25th 2019 by Nine Star Press
Edition Language English