Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A lifetime of abuse at the hands of his father sent Vellem into the service of Bellemere’s Army Corps of Engineers, first as an apprentice at the age of 10, then in the Royal Corps of Engineers where he became the youngest Captain of the Engineers. His older brother found a different path at the royal court, anything to stay away from their abusive drunk of a father and a mother who hid from her life behind drugs in her rooms.
Vellum rose swiftly through the ranks of the Engineers, winning Bellemere’s wars through perseverance and cunning, becoming renown for his engineering skills and intellect. When his brother arranges a marriage for Vellem with one of the younger princes of the enemy kingdom of Talladith as a way to foster peace and make an political alliance, Vellem agrees. He wishes nothing more than to make a new start for himself faraway from his parents and the aggressive kingdom of Bellemere .
Vellem is looking forward to his marriage and using his skills and the accompanying Corps of Engineers to help Talladith rebuild that country’s infrastructure that had been destroyed through years of continual warfare with Bellemere. But even as Vellem and the wedding party journey to Talladith, all is not as it seems. But no one is prepared for the tragedy that will strike and Vellum is left to decide if he can go forward to rebuild amongst the ruins of everyone’s hopes.
I consider Megan Derr is one of the finest fantasy fiction authors writing in the m/m genre today. Time and again she manages in her series and stand alone novels to capture the essence of the world she is building in such a manner that the universe, her characters and the societies through which they move appear seamless and utterly realistic to the reader, even when dragons fly through the air and mages work their craft in fantastical ways. A Megan Derr fantasy novel is one where no element of the story is neglected.
Her world building is impressive. We learn about the land’s topography, the geography, the political layout, the flora and fauna…it all there giving her plots a remarkable foundation upon which to stand. Important in The Engineered Throne are the rugged mountains and rivers that help define the kingdoms. As Vellem and his party travel through the region, Derr’s descriptions give the reader a real feel for the area and the treacherous terrain the party must navigate through, making the land as much a part of the story as the characters.
Her plots are always layered and intricate. In The Engineered Throne, the reader is kept guessing as to where the actions are taking the characters, making it almost impossible to extrapolate the events to come. And what shocking events they are. I think that even with some prior warning with some troublesome occurrences along the way, what occurs to the characters we have become fond of is so believably rendered that their pain and shock becomes ours. Without giving anything or too much away, the plot of the story has such complexity and depth that nothing is as it seems on the surface and as the story continues, layer after layer is exposed making the story that much richer and rewarding.
But in order to pull it all together and make the reader care about the book, you must have characters that the readers will commiserate and sympathize with, relating to the characters so thoroughly that our emotions are tied to theirs. That absolutely happens here with Vellem, Koit (his brother), Perdith the prince of Talladith that he marries and all the rest. Although the book is told from Vellem’s point of view, the fullness of characterization of the others comes through nicely as seen through his eyes. I loved the fact that, instead of the usual warrior or mage, Vellem is an engineer, and that in that capacity, he wins his wars. That is a lovely twist in this strange world that has both dragons (his little golden dragon is enchanting) and guns. Vellem, a victim of childhood abuse, does not see himself as others do. So at first the readers opinion of him is his, then slowly through the words and actions of those around him, the true nature of this man is revealed both to the readers and finally to himself.
Another aspect of this story is that no character is considered a “throw away”. By that I mean, the “red shirt” actors of the Star Trek series. You know, the ones that were there specifically as the disposable character soon to die in the next scene. Soon to die, no care was taken to make them people we would care about. Not so here. We care about them all from the beginning as each is such a personable creation that they come alive in only a few pages.
There is a romance situated at the heart of this story but it is a very slow climb to fruition. Strangers and enemies through politics at the beginning of the story, Vellem and Perdith have many obstacles, including a lack of communication between them, to overcome before love can set in. If you are looking for a story consumed with romance and a sexual relationship between the main characters from the beginning, this may not be the story for you. There is far too much going on for Vellem and Perdith to drop everything for romance and it would negate all the carefully crafted personas for that too happen.
This is a long novel at 346 pages but Megan Derr uses every word to craft an enthralling fantasy saga. In fact at the end, I felt as though there were more stories (and adventures) left for Vellem and Perdith and the rest of the crew. I hope that Megan Derr will revisit this couple or perhaps some of the other characters in this remarkable story. I want to know what happens next. You will too. Grab this up and prepare for a wildly eventful journey into fantasy and beyond.
Cover Art by Megan Derr is exceptional. It works beautifully to draw the reader in with its fantasy elements and misty tone.
ebook, 346 pages
Published November 13th 2013 (first published November 12th 2013)
original title The Engineered Throne